In dolphins, communication is a complex process, which involves the use of a wide range of sounds, including frequency-modulated whistles, clicks, and burst-pulse sounds. Even though their communication is most often characterized by the use of sounds, they are also known to resort to body language to communicate with each other and also, with humans.
Dolphin Facts: Communication
Animal communication most often revolves around courtship rituals, territory defining, alarm calls, hunting, etc. Sound travels 4 - 5 times faster in the water, which makes it one of the key attributes of communication in the marine world. In dolphins, communication helps in facilitating complicated social interactions between the members of a pod. They are known to use various sounds and actions to communicate with each other. Even though they don't have vocal cords like us, the nasal air sacs located below their blowhole can help them create a wide range of sounds.
How do They Communicate With Each Other?
The wide range of sounds that dolphins make are broadly categorized into three groups: frequency-modulated whistles, clicks, and burst-pulse sounds. Frequency-modulated whistles work as signatures for these mammals. Each of the dolphins have a unique whistle, which helps them identify each other. The young ones are trained to identify their mothers whistle at birth itself. Clicks predominantly facilitate echolocation―a process wherein the location of a particular object is determined on the basis of the time taken for the echo. When foraging, the frequency of clicks increases as the dolphins close in on the target. Their clicks are the loudest among marine species. As for the burst-pulse sounds, they help them in keeping their aggression levels under check, especially in times of high excitement. These sounds are used by them to establish and maintain their position in the social hierarchy.
How do They Communicate With Humans?
In order to communicate with humans, dolphins resort to certain physical actions, like breaching, body posturing, jaw popping, etc. One of the most widely used means of communication in this species is breaching, which refers to the action of propelling oneself out of the water and falling into the water with a splash. At times, they also communicate by splashing water with pectoral fins or tail. Though these measures are most often used to communicate with humans, at times, they also use them to communicate between themselves. Studies have also revealed that dolphins can understand the language patterns used by humans to communicate―a trait which is also observed in animals like parrots, seal lions, etc.
Though scientists have collected a significant amount of information on communication in these mammals, they still believe that there is a lot more to learn about them. In fact, there are studies which reveal that dolphins have the ability of mimicking various sounds, including that of a motor boat and human laughter. While the mystery surrounding their social behavior has been decoded, communication is one aspect wherein we still need to work on.