Life Dream Status: Someday We Might Speak Dolphin

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Science!

Dolphins are like humans in a lot of ways: they have sex for pleasure, mingle with different social groups, and enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror. They also spend a lot of time talking to each other in whistles, clicks, and pulses (coincidentally, this is how many of us communicate with our best friends). So here’s the million dollar question: will we ever be able to crack the dolphin language code? Scientists are hard at work studying dolphin vocalizations, a task which is as challenging as it is fascinating. George Dvorsky over at i09 sums up what they’ve learned so far…

Those whistles are definitely not random. Scientists who have observed and recorded dolphin sounds hear the same whistles from the same dolphins over and over. Says Dvorsky: “One thing is becoming increasingly clear: The whistles may actually be the names of dolphins. Or at the very least, whistles may a way for dolphins to identify themselves.”

And the clicks? They’re highly focused sounds used when dolphins are hunting in groups–a process that calls for some impressive choreography. Scientists can recognize and categorize these sounds, but pinpointing specific meanings will take years of work. “The ongoing research is unveiling some remarkable insights into the sophistication of dolphin communication and behavior,” says Dvorsky. “It’s fair to suggest that, even if we never crack the dolphin language code, we’re getting some fascinating snapshots into cetacean life.”

I, for one, am hopeful that I’ll own a Dolphin-English dictionary at some point in my lifetime. For now, I’m changing my name to Click-Click-Wheeeeeeeeeeee! [io9]

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