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Do Dolphins Use 'Baby Talk'? Examining Whistle Communication in Bottlenose Dolphins

Typically, when adults speak to babies they use a high-pitched baby voice. Did you know dolphins do the same?

Bottlenose dolphin moms modify their whistles when their newborns are nearby. Similarly, baby bottlenose dolphins also start creating a unique tune or whistle in their first few weeks and can continue doing so for up to a couple of months. “Dolphins shout their names in water as a way to keep track of each other,” marine biologist Laela Sayigh from Massachusetts said.

Sayigh and her students published a large study in 2009 that examined 40 unique whistles from 19 female dolphins. The researchers discovered that mom dolphins appear to adjust their tune when their calves are present. Calves stay with their moms from three to six years, creating mother-baby bonds.

Sayigh and her colleagues did a follow-up study in which they observed whistles from female dolphins: what their whistles sound like when their babies are nearby and what their whistles sound like when their babies are absent. The study even captured recordings during the process.

Even after examining unique whistles, we can't know exactly whether or not dolphin whistling has the same purpose as human speech. Do you believe bottlenose dolphin moms use baby talk with their calves?

[Source: Science News]

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