If you think the idea of dolphins chatting excitedly about the new features on the next iPhone sounds far-fetched, you’d be absolutely right. It’s an absurd suggestion.
But how about the popular marine mammal communicating in a similar way to humans, pausing to let the other one “speak” during a “conversation”? Well, scientists in Russia believe they’ve witnessed it happening.
While we’ve long known that dolphins have the ability to communicate among their group, the extent of that skill is still being uncovered, with the latest findings coming from scientists at the Karadag Nature Reserve in Feodosia, Russia.
The research, published recently in the St. Petersburg Polytechnical University Journal, suggests the dolphins’ various clicks and whistles allow them to exchange information in a manner than resembles the way humans communicate.
As part of their research, the scientists took a close look at how two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins communicated with each other. Before long, they noticed the pair were actually pausing to allow the other one to “speak,” similar to how humans converse.
“The analysis of [sounds] registered in our experiments showed that the dolphins took turns in producing [words and phrases] and did not interrupt each other, which gives reason to believe that each of the dolphins listened to the other’s pulses before producing its own,” the team said in its report. “Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people. The fundamental difference between the dolphin exchange of information and the human conversation is in the characteristics of the acoustic signals of their spoken language.”
The report added, “This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language, [indicating] a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins … their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language.”
The researchers admitted they had no idea what the dolphins were talking about, though if the resemblance to human interaction extends further it’d be nice to think their conversations focused on everyday topics such as the weather or what’s currently hot on Netflix.
Australian research conducted in 2007 found that dolphins use nearly 200 different whistle sounds while communicating, with groups of sounds linked to specific activities such as feeding, resting, socializing, and traveling. And in the U.K. scientists said the aquatic animal even appeared to “speak” in different dialects according to where they come from. Clearly there is still much to learn about this talkative creature.