We all know dolphins are smart, right? The latest research claims they love to talk about their problems. As reported on the website New Scientist, dolphins have a special type of language they use to tackle problems together.
According to the Dolphin Communication Project, a research and conservation organization in Port St. Lucie, Florida, dolphins make two kinds of clicks. They employ echolocation to investigate their surroundings. They also use “burst pulses,” a series of clicks so rapid — as many as 2,000 in a single second — that scientists believe these can’t offer any echolocation information. This type must be for communication: researchers in past studies have observed dolphins emitting burst pulses for mating, playing, and shows of aggression. (They sound like screeching to us, but they’re really quick, distinct sounds.)
But maybe these burst pulses have another use. In a study recently published in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers investigated the sounds that six dolphins made during a series of problem-solving experiments. The dolphins were given a container filled with food that could be opened by ropes on either side. This container could be opened by one animal, but it was easier if two of them worked together.)
Four of the dolphins couldn’t figure it out, but the other two solved the puzzle together over several different rounds, each time in under a minute. One of the two also managed to solve it on his own over a longer period. During all the different rounds, the researchers found, the dolphins were at their most talkative when they were working together. The researchers didn’t know exactly what the dolphins were saying, but they knew what they were talking about.
Once again, animals deserve more credit than we usually give them.
If the above links don’t work, a summary of the study with links to supporting data is at http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/04/dolphins-love-to-talk-about-their-problems.html. The photo is from the New Scientist website.