How do dolphins communicate? Cracking the code of the mammal’s whistles and clicks

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Denise Herzing’s research team hopes to crack the code of spotted dolphins’ underwater communication system. PBS NewsHour Science correspondent Miles O’Brien takes a deeper look at the group’s database of whistles, clicks and other sounds and their attempts to talk back. Video by PBS NewsHour

For more than 30 years, Marine mammalogist Denise Herzing and her team have studied the behavior and cognitive abilities of wild spotted dolphins living in shallow water off the Bahamas.

“I see them probably more than some of my human friends, to be honest,” Herzing said. “They have personalities, they have different ways of greeting you sometimes, so they’re unique in their own right as well.”

Over time, the group has compiled a large database of the dolphins’ whistles, clicks and other sounds and hope to use the information to crack the code of their underwater communication system.

“What we discovered is that indeed there seems to be this regularity to the sounds,” said Thad Starner a Georgia Institute of Technology computer scientist collaborating with Herzing. “Just by looking at the audio, we can predict what you’re seeing in the videos.”

PBS NewsHour Science correspondent Miles O’Brien recently took a deeper look at the team’s research and attempts to talk back to the dolphins.

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