Info: Whale communications/ dolphin pictures

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 4 Mar 1995 08:42:26

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From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
Subject: Info: Whale communications/ dolphin pictures
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Subj:	Whale communications/ dolphin pictures
Date:         Fri, 3 Mar 1995 15:03:20 -0800
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From:         Tom Norris <NORRIS@MLML.CALSTATE.EDU>
Subject:      Whale communications/ dolphin pictures
To:           Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
"To test the "TV" hypothesis,  the first thing to do is to see if the sound
>patterns emitted by whales can translate into any sort of recognizeable
>picture.  This may sound off the wall,  but perhaps the "song" of humpback
>whales forms an image of whales having sex."
The sonar picture hypothesis is interesting but I don't quite understand
what you think constitutes a "picture."  Humpback song is just that, a song.
Its characteristics include repetive patterns arranged in a rhythmical
pattern, much like human song.  Many species of birds have songs as well
and while singing is related to breeding behavior in many of these birds
I doubt that they could be construed as "bird porn."  The complexity of
humpback song probably is due to stong selective forces related to
their mating system (which is not fully understood yet).
Your idea of dolphins transmitting information about images they perceive
 from echolocation signals seems more plausible, but how to test it?  Dolphin
echolcation signals essentially sound like clatter or clicking - not much there
that resembles a "picture".  Keep in mind that these animals have very sophis-
ticated acoustic processing capabilities.  Much of which is not understood
and far beyond anything we are yet capable of emulating (as far as I know.)
I don't know much about bio-sonar systems, but  I would think that the dolphin
 receiving these sonar  "pictures" would have to know something about the
echolocation signals produced by the original animal (e.g signal intensity,
and time-frequency characteristics).  Also, such pictures would have to be
interpreted within some context.  For example, would a "picture" of a prey item
mean " there is food nearby" or "I'm hungry let's get some food." I think a
more likely scenario is that a dolphin nearby an echolcating animal may use
echoes produced by that animal to get some information about its surroundings.
However, I don't think this is a direct form of communication.
 What do the "experts" think?
--Tom Norris