Dolphins’ whistles identify their pals
In the animal kingdom it’s common for creatures in the same social circles to adopt similar calls. For years researchers assumed dolphins did the same. But as Stephanie King, a biologist at the University of Western Australia, spent time recording male bottlenose dolphin vocalizations in Shark Bay, she realized that individuals were using unique whistles, even within tight-knit groups. King deduced in a recent study that these calling cards, or “names,” help dolphins keep track of “who their friends are, who are their friends’ friends, and who are their competitors,” she says. Next King will use these calls to learn how male dolphins form and maintain individual social relationships. A lot of this feels familiar to her. “There are a number of striking similarities between human and dolphin societies,” she says.
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