Sarasota scientists discovered dolphins give each other names - WFLA News Channel 8

Sarasota scientists discovered dolphins give each other names

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

There are a few famous dolphin names you may have heard of.  There's the TV-star 'Flipper', or Clearwater's popular resident, 'Winter'.  But researchers just discovered bottlenose dolphins actually call out to each other by name, and this groundbreaking research was done in Sarasota.

Out in the pristine waters of Sarasota bay, scientists from Mote Marine Lab have spent the past thirty years studying the local residents- bottlenose dolphins.  And they noticed something interesting- these mammals would communicate to one another using distinctive whistles.

They soon found these were not random noises.  One of the lead scientists in the study, Dr. Randall Wells, is a local researcher who's been studying dolphins in Sarasota Bay for years.  He said,"These whistles actually turned out to be names. They're abstract names which is unheard of in the animal kingdom beyond people."

This report was just published a few weeks ago. These scientists discovered bottlenose dolphins come up with their own names when they're very young.  Wells said, "These animals will call another individual's name to get their attention. So they not only understand they have an identity but they understand the other animal's identity and they use that through communication."

The researcher says bottlenose dolphins don't swim in the wild with their own families. Instead they make long term friendships with dolphins from other families.  And they've learned by using these distinctive whistles the dolphins can keep in touch with their friends and make new ones.

Wells says out in the gulf, this name calling comes in handy.  He said, "These animals are living in a murky, estuary environment. They have to maintain group cohesion and stay in contact with one another and coordinate their activities- how do you do that when you can't see one another?"

This is groundbreaking research and scientists say it's only the tip of the iceberg. They plan to use these findings to better understand these mammals in their natural environment.

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