Red Sea Dolphins Remember Lost Family and Friends
To investigate the connections between dolphins and their environment, a team of Israeli scientists recorded the sounds emitted by dolphins in the Red Sea coral reef. What they discovered was nothing short of remarkable.
It is known that dolphins have what is called a signature whistle: a sound unique to each individual that develops while they are young and helps to identify them among the pod. Researchers closely compare this use of individualized sounds to humans’ use of names to identify and distinguish individuals. However, while we frequently say the names of others, dolphins have mostly been observed emitting their own signature whistle.
As lead researcher Tan Morgan recorded Red Sea dolphins, she began noticing something striking: the dolphins would also emit the signature whistles of individual dolphins who were no longer present. To her astonishment, she discovered the signature whistles she recorded were associated with two dolphins - one who had died, and one who had left the Red Sea.
After an in-depth analysis of the audio files, the researchers suggested that the dolphins were in fact remembering these three individuals. Producing the unique vocal signatures - the names - of dolphins who no longer live in the Red Sea most likely indicates a form of memory that was once thought to be unique to humans. Thanks to this study, it appears that we can add the ability to express the memory of individuals to the growing list of traits shared between dolphins and humans, which adds to the undeniable truth that dolphins, like all animals, deserve respect and freedom.
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