Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

What's in a voice? Dolphins do not use voice cues for individual recognition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

DOI

Open Access permissions

Open

Abstract

Most mammals can accomplish acoustic recognition of other individuals by means of “voice cues,” whereby characteristics of the vocal tract render vocalizations of an individual uniquely identifiable. However, sound production in dolphins takes place in gas-filled nasal sacs that are affected by pressure changes, potentially resulting in a lack of reliable voice cues. It is well known that bottlenose dolphins learn to produce individually distinctive signature whistles for individual recognition, but it is not known whether they may also use voice cues. To investigate this question, we played back non-signature whistles to wild dolphins during brief capture-release events in Sarasota Bay, Florida. We hypothesized that non-signature whistles, which have varied contours that can be shared among individuals, would be recognizable to dolphins only if they contained voice cues. Following established methodology used in two previous sets of playback experiments, we found that dolphins did not respond differentially to non-signature whistles of close relatives versus known unrelated individuals. In contrast, our previous studies showed that in an identical context, dolphins reacted strongly to hearing the signature whistle or even a synthetic version of the signature whistle of a close relative. Thus, we conclude that dolphins likely do not use voice cues to identify individuals. The low reliability of voice cues and the need for individual recognition were likely strong selective forces in the evolution of vocal learning in dolphins.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1067-1079
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume20
Issue number6
Early online date8 Aug 2017
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 8 Aug 2017

    Research areas

  • Dolphin, Playback experiment, Non-signature whistle, Voice cues, Individual recognition

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Marine mammals and sonar: dose-response studies, the risk-disturbance hypothesis and the role of exposure context

    Harris, C. M., Thomas, L., Falcone, E., Hildebrand, J., Houser, D., Kvadsheim, P., Lam, F-P. A., Miller, P., Moretti, D. J., Read, A., Slabbekoorn, H., Southall, B. L., Tyack, P. L., Wartzok, D. & Janik, V. M. 20 Jul 2017 In : Journal of Applied Ecology. Early view

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  2. Can fear conditioning repel California sea lions from fishing activities?

    Schakner, Z. A., Götz, T., Janik, V. M. & Blumstein, D. T. 30 Jan 2017 In : Animal Conservation. Early View, 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Cetacean Communication

    Sayigh, L. & Janik, V. 2017 Deep thinkers: inside the minds of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Mann, J. (ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 66-91

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Related by journal

  1. Cooperative problem solving in giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) and Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinerea)

    Schmelz, M., Duguid, S., Bohn, M. & Voelter, C. J. 24 Aug 2017 In : Animal Cognition. First Online, 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Great ape gestures. Intentional communication with a rich set of innate signals

    Byrne, R. W., Cartmill, E., Genty, E., Graham, K. E., Hobaiter, C. L. & Tanner, J. Jul 2017 In : Animal Cognition. 20, 4, p. 755-769

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Conservatism and "copy-if-better" in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

    van Leeuwen, E. J. C. & Call, J. May 2017 In : Animal Cognition. 20, 3, p. 575-579 5 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Does social environment influence learning ability in a family-living lizard?

    Riley, J. L., Noble, D. W. A., Byrne, R. W. & Whiting, M. J. May 2017 In : Animal Cognition. 20, 3, p. 449-458

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Animal Cognition (Journal)

    Healy, S. D. (Member of editorial board)
    2015 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  2. Animal Cognition (Journal)

    Janik, V. (Member of editorial board)
    2004 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

ID: 249406856