Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

A Dolphin By Any Other Name 248

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the what's-in-a-name dept.
SloppyElvis writes "CNN is reporting that scientists have proven that Dolphins can communicate with each other by name. From the article: 'researchers synthesized signature whistles with the caller's voice features removed and played them to dolphins through an underwater speaker' to which the mammals responded. This form of identification in language was previously only known to exist in the human world." Thankfully they still haven't evolved opposable thumbs.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Dolphin By Any Other Name

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @03:55PM (#15303553)
    they all call each other Flipper!

    -Sj53
    • is it the marklar version of dolphins?
    • "they all call each other Flipper!"

      "G'day, Flipper... Hello Flipper... how are you, Flipper? Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce a chap from pommie land... Michael Baldwin - this is Flipper. Michael Baldwin - this is Flipper... and Michael Baldwin - this is Flipper."

      "Is your name not Flipper, then?"

      "No, it's Michael."

      "That's going to cause a little confusion. Mind if we call you 'Flipper' to keep it clear?"
  • Flipper (Score:4, Funny)

    by digitaldc (879047) * on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @03:58PM (#15303576)
    He tells me he never did like that name, but then he thanked me for all the fish and quickly left.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Squeek-Whistle, disagrees.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:01PM (#15303594)
    Since it says "Dolphins" and not "dolphins" (or "porpoises", even) can we assume that this is in reference to the Miami Dolphins? Truly astounding if true...
  • by Ricken (797341) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:01PM (#15303597)
    Baby Dolphin goes downstairs and sits on her little seashell at the table. She looks into her little bowl. It is empty.
    "Who's been eating my sardines?!!" she squeaks.
    Daddy Dolphin arrives at the table and sits on his big seashell. He looks into his big bowl and it is also empty.
    "Who's been eating my sardines?!!" he roars.
    Mummy Dolphin puts her head through the serving hatch from the kitchen and yells

    "How many times do we have to go through this with you idiots? It was Mummy Dolphin who got up first, it was Mummy Dolphin who woke everyone in the house, it was Mummy Dolphin who made the coffee, it was Mummy Dolphin who unloaded the dishwasher from last night, and put everything away, it was Mummy Dolphin who went out in the cold early morning water to fetch the newspaper, it was Mummy Dolphin who set the damn table, it was Mummy Dolphin who put the friggin catfish out, cleaned the litter box and filled the catfish's water and food dish, and now that you've decided to drag your sorry dolphin-asses downstairs and grace Mummy Dolphin's kitchen with your grumpy presence, listen good, cause I'm only going to say this one more time...
    I HAVEN'T MADE THE DAMN SARDINES YET !!"
  • windering.. (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by dotpavan (829804)
    .. what their equivalent of a "Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaan" [khaaan.com] is?
  • by DuSTman31 (578936) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:04PM (#15303625)

    Personally, I find it far more likely that the dolphins are referring to each other by their slashdot IDs.

  • 1) They'd kill us all if they had thumbs
    2) They love NASCAR
  • by Jesrad (716567) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:06PM (#15303639) Journal
    This form of identification in language was previously only known to exist in the human world ... except for the hundreds of thousands of parrot owners througout the world. My african greys call each other by name when asking for anything.
    • My african greys call each other by name when asking for anything.

      Fill us in. I've only heard parrots say simple, seemingly random things to people or just utterances out loud. I've never heard of them talking to each other.

      What do they ask for, and how? Give us a little dialog please....

      • Maybe they're old married parrots.

        "Polly! I wanna cracker!"

        "Fly off your perch and get it yourself!"
      • Do a google on Alex the gray and Dr. Pepperburg.

        She's at University of Arizona last I heard.

        Parrots can recognize and name multiple objects, colors, numbers, and materials and use the words correctly.
      • In a recent issue of "Bird Talk" magazine there was an article about wild budgerigars (budgies or parakeets in the US). These little guys use a sequence of whistles to identify their mates and other members of their flocks. I'll see if I can find the exact issue.

      • Was walking through a pet shop with a scarlet macaw and it wasn't a random utterance that struck me.

        When this bird was invited onto someone's arm, it would climb toward the head, and then proclaim 'lookout!' before proceeding to preen. It obviously had learned this should be said by someone before clamping down on their hair and pulling.

        But generally speaking, this behavior isn't quite the same as the parrots are not creating the names themselves, but rather recognizing the meaning of a word and imitating
        • by evenprime (324363) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @09:44PM (#15305642) Homepage Journal
          It obviously had learned this should be said by someone before clamping down on their hair and pulling.

          Most of what my macaw and my parents' african grey falls into this catagory. Obviously, they learned "Hello" and "good morning" because those things are said to them. It is even clear that their understanding of these sounds is different from the literal meaning; our birds will use these comments any time they want to greet you or initiate contact.

          What is more interesting is the novel constructions and novel useage; i.e. the new uses they find for an existing word or phrase and the entirely new phrases make by combining words in new ways. Examples:

          • They grey often says, "Want chip" when he wants you to bring him a corn chip (or any other snack). He knows what cats are, because if my sister is visiting and is bringing cats, we tell him to go in the cage because the cats will be here. One time my sister brought a kitten with her. He had never seen a kitten, and wanted to look at it. He walked to the edge of his cage and yelled, "Want cat" so we would bring the kitten to him. He had never heard those words used together.
          • All our birds have had previous owners, so they have different vocal repertoires from their past. They grey was used to saying "good night" when he wanted to be put into his cage and have the lights turned out. The macaw used "night-night" when he wanted this to happen. The grey understood that these two sequences of sounds had equivalent meaning, and changed his phrase to "good night-night".
          • Whenever one of the birds is running around on the floor causing mischief, someone in the family will yell "get the bird!". The grey started using this phrase in a novel context; when he is locked in the cage and wants out he now yells "get the bird!" This usage of the phrase was never modeled for him, but he knows that the sequence of sounds will cause someone to pick him up.
          • Once when he was chewing on woodwork in the house and getting scolded for it, the grey stopped, looked at the human and asked, "Are you mad?" None of us recall having said that near him before.
      • Parrots are pretty smart. I don't remember the two fruits (or veggies), one but parrot made up a name for a new fruit based off of two previous fruits it tried. It was taught something like "Orange" and "Raspberry" and when presented with an apple, it called it a "Raspange" or something. I have my fruit all wrong but they ain't bird brains.
      • The older one makes up new sentences out of words he knows. For example he has adapted the "want a preen" into "want a $X" where X is whatever he wants at the time. He adds the other parrot's name at the beginning, when addressing her. Same with "Can you give me a $X". They also have perfectly understood things like "NO!", "Don't!", "Stop it", and distinguish between "Come here" and "Come there". And as most pets, they're very receptive to body language as well.

        The funny thing is they use only one of my par
    • by frankie (91710) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:53PM (#15303999) Journal
      You're talking about pets. Learning to use names after repeated exposure to human conversation doesn't count. Do these parrots have personal names and speak them IN THE WILD?
      • by syukton (256348) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @06:07PM (#15304524)
        How do humans learn to use names other than after repeated exposure to human conversation?

        Further, if you isolated a group of humans from other humans ("in the wild") do you think they would come up with names for one another?

        What I'm saying here is that I think a human separated from its herd/pack/society will be just as uninclined to name things as a bird would be. When integrated into society however, whether human or bird, the ability to learn enables higher-level functions like naming, understanding, counting, storytelling, and so on. That's probably the most amazing thing of all, that a bird can become "socialized" the same way a child can.

        What does it matter if they do or don't have names that they speak in the wild? What if they don't? Wouldn't that make this all the more interesting?
      • Do these parrots have personal names and speak them IN THE WILD?


        I'd certainly like to know the answer to that question... we have flocks of wild parrots living around here (Southern California) and they are very noisy: it's hard to miss them when they fly by, it sounds like several dozen 300 baud modems all transmitting at once. Which makes me wonder if the modem-like audio might not actually contain a fair amount of encoded data in it...

    • My parent's african grey whistles the first few notes when it hears me in the vicinity. I obviously reply with the next few. It also shouts the dogs names when it can see they're outside. The eclectus parrots on the other hand screech, growl and attempt to rip off your fingers at the slightest opportunity.

       
    • Beautiful plumage
    • A friend of mine had a cat with a litter of kittens. He was watching them one day, with the cat on one side of the room and the kittens on the other. The cat made an odd miaow, and one of the kittens got up, crossed the room and recieved a grooming. The cat made a different miaow, and another kitten crossed the room to be cleaned. Same for the rest of the litter.
      My friend observed this a number of times and was able to replicate the individual miaows to call individual kittens.
      So it seems even cats can have
  • by BitterAndDrunk (799378) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:06PM (#15303640) Homepage Journal
    But that's just because they're in the water. [theonion.com]
  • I saw this said on discovery 5+ years ago. I really wonder how this is just now making it out to the mass media. I suppose that now it's more "conclusive". As far as I'm concerned we know this for "Fact" just as much as we did back then.
  • by Malakusen (961638) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:09PM (#15303665) Journal
    Squeak squeak click squeak click click squeak ee-oo ee-oo click

    Translation: I for one welcome our dolphin overlords.
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:13PM (#15303699)
    My parents own a pet store, and move a pair of African Grey Parrots between work and home every day, along with two dogs. The birds not only recognize their own names, but they appropriatly name the dogs when they encounter them. In addition, they can tell them to sit by name and even will give the dogs bits of food in exchange for treats - they appear to do this appropriatly when they want to either cause mischief or gain obedience from the dogs when the dogs are frightening them. The birds also use eachother's names appropriatly - and at the pet store seem to know the difference between these specific dogs and the other similar dogs that they encounter.

    Intelligence and symbol identification/use definitely seems to me to be a general phenomenon larger than mammalian life.

    It would be interesting to repeat similar experiments with intelligent species of wild birds to see if they generate unique sound identification that they may use to identify third-"persons" non-visually in some way. Most likely birds would use such ability to immitate eachother for social manipulation - but the conclusions of the use of such symbolic proto-language would still be meaningful.

    Ryan Fenton
    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@yah o o .com> on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:28PM (#15303806) Journal
      Grey Parrots are among the smartest of birds. Alex [wikipedia.org] is an African grey parrot whose use of language has been studied by animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg, currently at Brandeis University. Alex knows about 100 words and can understand abstract concepts like shape and color. Not only that, he has taught other parrots to speak, even going so far as to stop them when they pronounce a word wrong and saying the correct pronunciation.
      • Actually, I worked with Alex when he was at MIT, and while I never saw him correct the other birds, I did see him give them the wrong answers, on purpose, in hopes that he would get their nut. Or maybe he was just being a big jerk.

        It was amazing how much that bird knew though.
      • Not only that, he has taught other parrots to speak, even going so far as to stop them when they pronounce a word wrong and saying the correct pronunciation.

        So he would over-qualified to work as a /. editor?

    • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:37PM (#15303869)
      The birds not only recognize their own names, but they appropriatly name the dogs when they encounter them. In addition, they can tell them to sit by name and even will give the dogs bits of food in exchange for treats ...

      In other words, your dogs have accepted their African Grey Parrot overlords.

      Gary Larson would proud of them all.

    • Parrots are mimickers- and not much more; they lack the brain capacity to do most of the things that people claim they can do. Names aren't sounds; they have a lot more meaning if they are truly names. A couple of days ago when this story hit the AP (yes, a few days ago), I read that the researchers went to extensive lengths to see if it was the exact sound, inflection, etc. that dolphins responded to.

      My cat comes running (usually) when you call his name (Tucker). When we call him, we all generally do

      • by cecom (698048) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @05:15PM (#15304174) Homepage Journal
        Don't take the meaning of a "name" literally - it doesn't have to be a combination of letters (cats are notorious with spelling :-). Technically speaking the two syllables pronounced with a certain inflection, by a voice that it recognizes, _is_ the cat's name and it does recognize it.

        To make an example, as far as I know in languages like Chinese intonation plays a tremendous role - two completely different words might sound exactly the same to us - one might be our name, the other someting else, but that doesn't mean that we don't know our names.

        I have had many pets and have came to the conclusion that animals are much closer to us than we are used to assuming. They can think (albeit very primitively), they have memory, they make plans, etc - to say that it is all instinct and mimicking would be a vast oversimplification. This is a dangerous line of thinking though - a pig is as smart as a cat, but I do love eating pork chop.
        • "two completely different words might sound exactly the same to us"

          This is due to the way humans learn language, the human brain learns the sounds that are peculiar to the language spoken, extra sounds are meaningless and the brain actually filters them out so you don't "hear" them in the first place. This is the reason asian speakers consistently get "L" and "R" mixed up (to asians they sound similar!!!). I would guess the same is true for the cat, ie: it just hears the two "intonations" and recognises
  • by eander315 (448340) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:29PM (#15303812)
    "Look, those stupid pink animals with the low voices are finally learning how to talk!"
  • by DamienNightbane (768702) * on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:33PM (#15303840)
    Would be called "Gamecube"
  • Will still smell like fish.

    Thank You I'm here all week. Tip your servers.

  • Click Click Click Squeel Squeel Shreik Shreik Click Squeel Click Click. Thats dolphin for "Turn off that damn noisy speaker!".
  • Oversold? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:53PM (#15303998) Journal
    This is worthwile research, but it seems well short of supporting the claim that dolphins are using names. My summary would be that each dolphin has a signature call, they react to the signature calls of friends/relations, and (the new bit in this research) they react to calls which are similar but not identical to the signature calls of friends/relations.

    To support a claim of using names, I'd want evidence of dolphin Alice vocalizing dolphin Bob's signature call to gain Bob's attention.

    I suppose it comes down to an argument about what constitutes a "name". But the small step from the reacting to signature calls to the reacting to sythesized signature calls seems a strange place to draw the line between "name" and "not name".
  • by starrcake (25459)
    "Thankfully they still haven't evolved opposable thumbs"

    It is interesting to note that whales/dophin have hand bone structure. These mammals evolved from those that were once land animals. As a result the flipper is actually a modified hand structure.

    /
    • "Thankfully they still haven't evolved opposable thumbs"

      It is interesting to note that whales/dophin have hand bone structure. These mammals evolved from those that were once land animals. As a result the flipper is actually a modified hand structure.

      One can have an actual hand - not a modified structure, and still lack proper thumbs. The Panda's 'thumb' is actually a modified wrist bone and fully mobile or opposable.
  • ...is Mahi-Mahi [wikipedia.org].
    And man do they ever taste good, if you know how to cook 'em [activeangler.com].

  • If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you
    think liked dolphins the most? I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you? You'd be
    wrong, though. It's Hambone.

    -Jack Handy
  • by Splork (13498) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @05:50PM (#15304414) Homepage
    who needs thumbs when you can bend spoons with your mind?

    there is no human.
  • by ClubStew (113954) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @05:50PM (#15304415)
    This form of identification in language was previously only known to exist in the human world.

    While whale-watching in the North Pacific ocean around San Juan Island, the whale expert explained how whales make a unique sound before and after their other phrases, and that these sounds are often accompanied by a reply for a different whale. The unique sounds were most often unique to the whale that responded. As such, experts believed these to be used like names.

    Such a conversation would go something like this:

    1. Willy. How are you? Willy.
    2. Shamu. Fine. Nice day for entertaining whale watchers. Shamu.
  • by heatdeath (217147) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @06:39PM (#15304710)
    In nine out of 14 cases, the dolphin would turn more often toward the speaker if it heard a whistle that sounded like a close relative's.

    7 out of 14 would be expected if it were random...9 out of 14 is nothing more than a statistical fluke. They should have done more tests...this study sounds like nothing more than a coincidence.
  • Dolphins communicate by "speaking" their name before every communication, as a way of telling the recipient who said what. Every dolphin has their own name and researchers have known this for ages. I'm surprised that this is "news."

    Dolphins can ALSO create rings using their blowhole. They create what is essentially a vortex with perfect buyoncy (sp?). They can be tossed around like toys without "popping" due to the physics of the rings. I've tried to do this with my nose, and I fail every time. This is not
  • "Hmm, Bottlenose bruises. Blowhole burns. Flipper prints. This looks like the work of rowdy teens."
  • I think I read something of his once (Broca's Brain?) that said the dolphins would have evolved a lot further up the chain of intelligence if they had been able to discover fire.

    Makes you wonder how many times they tried before they gave up.

    And also why the chimps don't have it yet.
  • Thumbs? Pah! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lisaparratt (752068) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:07AM (#15306576)
    Who needs opposable thumbs when you've got prehensile genitalia?

Disobedience: The silver lining to the cloud of servitude. -- Ambrose Bierce

Working...