Advertisement

Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 199, Issue 6, pp 479–489 | Cite as

Communication in bottlenose dolphins: 50 years of signature whistle research

  • Vincent M. Janik
  • Laela S. Sayigh
Review

Abstract

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) produce individually distinctive signature whistles that broadcast the identity of the caller. Unlike voice cues that affect all calls of an animal, signature whistles are distinct whistle types carrying identity information in their frequency modulation pattern. Signature whistle development is influenced by vocal production learning. Animals use a whistle from their environment as a model, but modify it, and thus invent a novel signal. Dolphins also copy signature whistles of others, effectively addressing the whistle owner. This copying occurs at low rates and the resulting copies are recognizable as such by parameter variations in the copy. Captive dolphins can learn to associate novel whistles with objects and use these whistles to report on the presence or absence of the object. If applied to signature whistles, this ability would make the signature whistle a rare example of a learned referential signal in animals. Here, we review the history of signature whistle research, covering definitions, acoustic features, information content, contextual use, developmental aspects, and species comparisons with mammals and birds. We show how these signals stand out amongst recognition calls in animals and how they contribute to our understanding of complexity in animal communication.

Keywords

Tursiops truncatus Animal communication Individual recognition Playback Vocal learning 

References

  1. Aubin T, Jouventin P, Hildebrand C (2000) Penguins use the two-voice system to recognize each other. Proc R Soc Lond B 267:1081–1087CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balsby TJS, Bradbury JW (2009) Vocal matching by orange-fronted conures (Aratinga canicularis). Behav Process 82:133–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balsby TJS, Momberg JV, Dabelsteen T (2012) Vocal imitation in parrots allows addressing of specific individuals in a dynamic communication network. PLoS ONE 7:e49747PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beecher MD, Campbell SE, Burt JM (1994) Song perception in the song sparrow: birds classify by song type but not by singer. Anim Behav 47:1343–1351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berg K, Delgado S, Cortopassi KA, Beissinger SR, Bradbury JW (2011a) Vertical transmission of vocal signatures in a wild parrot. Proc R Soc Lond B 279:585–591CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berg KS, Delgado S, Okawa R, Beissinger SR, Bradbury JW (2011b) Contact calls are used for individual mate recognition in free-ranging green-rumped parrotlets, Forpus passerinus. Anim Behav 81:241–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boughman JW (1998) Vocal learning by greater spear-nosed bats. Proc R Soc Lond B 265:227–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boughman JW, Moss CF (2003) Social sounds: vocal learning and development of mammal and bird calls. In: Simmons AM, Popper AN, Fay RR (eds) Acoustic communication. Springer Verlag, New York, pp 138–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown ED, Farabaugh SM (1997) What birds with complex social relationships can tell us about vocal learning: vocal sharing in avian groups. In: Snowdon CT, Hausberger M (eds) Social influences on vocal development. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 98–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buckstaff KC (2004) Effects of watercraft noise on the acoustic behavior of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, in Sarasota Bay, Florida. Mar Mammal Sci 20:709–725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burdin VI, Reznik AM, Skornyakov VM, Chupakov AG (1975) Communication signals of the black sea bottlenose dolphin. Soviet Physics Acoustics 20:314–318Google Scholar
  12. Caldwell MC, Caldwell DK (1965) Individualized whistle contours in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Nature 207:434–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Caldwell MC, Caldwell DK (1968) Vocalization of naive captive dolphins in small groups. Science 159:1121–1123PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Caldwell MC, Caldwell DK (1971) Statistical evidence for individual signature whistles in Pacific whitesided dolphins, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens. Cetology 3:1–9Google Scholar
  15. Caldwell DK, Caldwell MC (1977) Cetaceans. In: Sebeok TA (ed) How animals communicate. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp 794–808Google Scholar
  16. Caldwell MC, Caldwell DK (1979) The whistle of the Atlantic bottlenosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)-ontogeny. In: Winn HE, Olla BL (eds) Behavior of marine animals: Current perspectives in research, vol 3., CetaceansPlenum Press, New York, pp 369–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Caldwell MC, Caldwell DK, Miller JF (1973) Statistical evidence for individual signature whistles in the spotted dolphin, Stenella plagiodon. Cetology 16:1–21Google Scholar
  18. Caldwell MC, Caldwell DK, Tyack PL (1990) Review of the signature-whistle-hypothesis for the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. In: Leatherwood S, Reeves RR (eds) The bottlenose dolphin. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 199–234Google Scholar
  19. Catchpole CK, Slater PJB (2008) Bird song: biological themes and variations, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Connor RC, Heithaus MR, Barre LM (2001) Complex social structure, alliance stability and mating access in a bottlenose dolphin ‘super-alliance’. Proc Roy Soc Lond B 268:263–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cook MLH, Sayigh LS, Blum JE, Wells RS (2004) Signature-whistle production in undisturbed free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Proc R Soc Lond B 271:1043–1049CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cortopassi KA, Bradbury JW (2006) Contact call diversity in wild orange-fronted parakeet pairs, Aratinga canicularis. Anim Behav 71:1141–1154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. de Figueiredo LD, Simão SM (2009) Possible occurrence of signature whistles in a population of Sotalia guianensis (Cetacea, Delphinidae) living in Sepetiba Bay, Brazil. J Acoust Soc Am 126:1563–1569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Deecke VB, Janik VM (2006) Automated categorization of bioacoustic signals: avoiding perceptual pitfalls. J Acoust Soc Am 119:645–653PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dreher JJ (1961) Linguistic considerations of porpoise sounds. J Acoust Soc Am 33:1799–1800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dreher JJ (1966) Cetacean communication: small-group experiment. In: Norris KS (ed) Whales, dolphins, and porpoises. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 529–541Google Scholar
  27. Dreher JJ, Evans WE (1964) Cetacean communication. In: Tavolga WN (ed) Marine bio-acoustics. Pergamon Press, Oxford, pp 373–393Google Scholar
  28. Esch HC, Sayigh LS, Blum JE, Wells RS (2009a) Whistles as potential indicators of stress in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). J Mammal 90:638–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Esch HC, Sayigh LS, Wells RS (2009b) Quantifying parameters of bottlenose dolphin signature whistles. Mar Mammal Sci 24:976–986CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ford JKB (1989) Acoustic behaviour of resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) off Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Can J Zool 67:727–745CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fripp D (2005) Bubblestream whistles are not representative of a bottlenose dolphin’s vocal repertoire. Mar Mammal Sci 21:29–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fripp D, Owen C, Quintana-Rizzo E, Shapiro A, Buckstaff K, Jankowski K, Wells R, Tyack P (2005) Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) calves appear to model their signature whistles on the signature whistles of community members. Anim Cog 8:17–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gridley T, Cockcroft VG, Hawkins ER, Lemon-Blewitt M, Morisaka T, Janik VM (2013) Signature whistles in free ranging populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops aduncus. Mar Mammal Sci (in press)Google Scholar
  34. Gwinner E, Kneutgen J (1962) Über die biologische Bedeutung der “zweckdienlichen” anwendung erlernter laute bei vögeln. Z Tierpsychol 19:692–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Harley HE (2008) Whistle discrimination and categorization by the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus): a review of the signature whistle framework and a perceptual test. Behav Process 77:243–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Herman LM (2006) Intelligence and rational behaviour in the bottlenosed dolphin. In: Hurley S, Nudds M (eds) Rational animals? Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 439–467Google Scholar
  37. Herman LM, Richards DG, Wolz JP (1984) Comprehension of sentences by bottlenosed dolphins. Cognition 16:129–219PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hile AG, Plummer TK, Striedter GF (2000) Male vocal imitation produces call convergence during pair bonding in budgerigars. Anim Behav 59:1209–1218PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hurford JR (2007) The origins of meaning: language in the light of evolution. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  40. Janik VM (1999) Pitfalls in the categorization of behaviour: a comparison of dolphin whistle classification methods. Anim Behav 57:133–143PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Janik VM (2000) Whistle matching in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Science 289:1355–1357PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Janik VM (2009) Acoustic communication in delphinids. Adv Stud Behav 40:123–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Janik VM (2013) Cognitive skills in bottlenose dolphin communication. Trends Cogn Sci 17:157–159Google Scholar
  44. Janik VM, Slater PJB (1997) Vocal learning in mammals. Adv Stud Behav 26:59–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Janik VM, Slater PJB (1998) Context-specific use suggests that bottlenose dolphin signature whistles are cohesion calls. Anim Behav 56:829–838PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Janik VM, Dehnhardt G, Todt D (1994) Signature whistle variations in a bottlenosed dolphin, Tursiops truncatus. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 35:243–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Janik VM, Sayigh LS, Wells RS (2006) Signature whistle contour shape conveys identity information to bottlenose dolphins. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:8293–8297PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Janik VM, King SL, Sayigh LS, Wells RS (2013) Identifying signature whistles from recordings of groups of unrestrained bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Mar Mammal Sci 29:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. King SL, Sayigh LS, Wells RS, Fellner W, Janik VM (2013) Vocal copying of individually distinctive siganture whistles in bottlenose dolphins. Proc R Soc Lond B 280:20130053CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kroodsma DE, Houlihan PW, Fallon PA, Wells JA (1997) Song development by grey catbirds. Anim Behav 54:457–464PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mammen DL, Nowicki S (1981) Individual differences and within-flock convergence in chickadee calls. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 9:179–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Marino L, Connor RC, Fordyce RE et al (2007) Cetaceans have complex brains for complex cognition. PLoS Biol 5:e139PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. McBride AF, Hebb DO (1948) Behavior of the captive bottle-nose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus. J Comp Physiol Psychol 41:111–123PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McCowan B, Reiss D (1995a) Quantitative comparison of whistle repertoires from captive adult bottlenose dolphins (Delphinidae, Tursiops truncatus): a re-evaluation of the signature whistle hypothesis. Ethology 100:194–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. McCowan B, Reiss D (1995b) Whistle contour development in captive-born infant bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): role of learning. J Comp Psychol 109:242–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. McCowan B, Reiss D (2001) The fallacy of ‘signature whistles’ in bottlenose dolphins: a comparative perspective of ‘signature information’ in animal vocalizations. Anim Behav 62:1151–1162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Miksis JL, Tyack PL, Buck JR (2002) Captive dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, develop signature whistles that match acoustic features of human-made model sounds. J Acoust Soc Am 112:728–739PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Miller PJO, Bain DE (2000) Within-pod variation in the sound production of a pod of killer whales, Orcinus orca. Anim Behav 60:617–628PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Mundinger PC (1970) Vocal imitation and individual recognition of finch calls. Science 168:480–482PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Nakahara F, Miyazaki N (2011) Vocal exchanges of signature whistles in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). J Ethol 29:309–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Nordby JC, Campbell SE, Beecher MD (2007) Selective attrition and individual song repertoire development in song sparrows. Anim Behav 74:1413–1418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Nousek AE, Slater PJB, Wang C, Miller PJO (2006) The influence of social affiliation on individual vocal signatures of northern resident killer whales (Orcinus orca). Biol Lett 2:481–484PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Quick NJ, Janik VM (2008) Whistle rates of wild bottlenose dolphins: influences of group size and behavior. J Comp Psychol 122:305–311PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Quick NJ, Janik VM (2012) Bottlenose dolphins exchange signature whistles when meeting at sea. Proc R Soc Lond B 279:2539–2545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Reiss D, McCowan B (1993) Spontaneous vocal mimicry and production by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): evidence for vocal learning. J Comp Psychol 107:301–312PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Richards DG, Wolz JP, Herman LM (1984) Vocal mimicry of computer-generated sounds and vocal labeling of objects by a bottlenosed dolphin, Tursiops truncatus. J Comp Psychol 98:10–28PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sayigh LS, Janik VM (2010) Signature whistles. In: Breed MD, Moore J (eds) Encyclopedia of animal behavior. Academic Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  68. Sayigh LS, Tyack PL, Wells RS, Scott MD (1990) Signature whistles of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus: mother-offspring comparisons. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 26:247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sayigh LS, Tyack PL, Wells RS, Scott MD, Irvine AB (1995) Sex differences in signature whistle production of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 36:171–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sayigh LS, Tyack PL, Wells RS, Solow AR, Scott MD, Irvine AB (1999) Individual recognition in wild bottlenose dolphins: a field test using playback experiments. Anim Behav 57:41–50Google Scholar
  71. Sayigh LS, Esch HC, Wells RS, Janik VM (2007) Facts about signature whistles of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Anim Behav 74:1631–1642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Sayigh LS, Quick NJ, Hastie G, Tyack P (2013) Repeated call types in short-finned pilot whales, Globicephala macrorhynchus. Mar Mammal Sci 29Google Scholar
  73. Searcy WA, Beecher MD (2009) Song as an aggressive signal in songbirds. Anim Behav 78:1281–1292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Shapiro AD (2006) Preliminary evidence for signature vocalizations among free-ranging narwhals (Monodon monoceros). J Acoust Soc Am 120:1695–1705PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Smolker R, Pepper JW (1999) Whistle convergence among allied male bottlenose dolphins (Delphinidae, Tursiops sp.). Ethology 105:595–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Smolker RA, Mann J, Smuts BB (1993) Use of signature whistles during separations and reunions by wild bottlenose dolphin mothers and infants. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 33:393–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Thorpe WH, North MEW (1966) Vocal imitation in the tropical bou–bou shrike Laniarius aethiopicus major as a means of establishing and maintaining social bonds. Ibis 108:432–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tibbetts EA, Dale J (2007) Individual recognition: it is good to be different. Trends Ecol Evol 22:529–537PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Tyack P (1986) Whistle repertoires of two bottlenosed dolphins, Tursiops truncatus: mimicry of signature whistles? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 18:251–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Tyack P (1991) Use of a telemetry device to identify which dolphin produces a sound. In: Pryor K, Norris KS (eds) Dolphin Societies: discoveries and puzzles. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 319–344Google Scholar
  81. Tyack PL, Sayigh LS (1997) Vocal learning in cetaceans. In: Snowdon CT, Hausberger M (eds) Social influences on vocal development. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 208–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. van Parijs SM, Corkeron PJ (2001) Evidence for signature whistle production by a Pacific humpback dolphin, Sousa chinensis. Mar Mammal Sci 17:944–949CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Vignal C, Mathevon N, Mottin S (2004) Audience drives make songbird response to partner’s voice. Nature 430:448–451PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wanker R, Sugama Y, Prinage S (2005) Vocal labelling of family members in spectacled parrotlets, Forpus conspicillatus. Anim Behav 70:111–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Watwood SL, Tyack PL, Wells RS (2004) Whistle sharing in paired male bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 55:531–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Watwood SL, Owen ECG, Tyack PL, Wells RS (2005) Signature whistle use by temporarily restrained and free-swimming bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus. Anim Behav 69:1373–1386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Zann R (1990) Song and call learning in wild zebra finches in south-east Australia. Anim Behav 40:811–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sea Mammal Research Unit, School of BiologyUniversity of St AndrewsFifeUK
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA

Personalised recommendations