Signature whistles of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus: stability and mother-offspring comparisons
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Mother-calf whistle exchanges were recorded from temporarily captured free-ranging bottlenose dolphins from 1975 to 1989. This is part of a long-term research project studying social structure and behavior of a community of approximately 100 dolphins in waters near Sarasota, Florida. Analysis of whistle exchanges from 12 mothercalf pairs shows that signature whistles can remain stable for periods up to at least 12 years. We looked for effects of vocal learning on the development of the signature whistle by comparing whistles of calves to those of their mothers. Eight female calves produced whistles distinct from those of their mothers, while four male calves produced whistles similar to those of their mothers. Male calves appeared to produce a greater proportion of whistles other than the signature whistle (termed “variants”). We hypothesize that these sex differences in whistle vocalizations may reflect differences in the roles males and females play in the social structure of the community.
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