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Animal Cognition

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 17–26 | Cite as

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) calves appear to model their signature whistles on the signature whistles of community members

  • Deborah FrippEmail author
  • Caryn Owen
  • Ester Quintana-Rizzo
  • Ari Shapiro
  • Kara Buckstaff
  • Kristine Jankowski
  • Randall Wells
  • Peter Tyack
Original Article

Abstract

Bottlenose dolphins are unusual among non-human mammals in their ability to learn new sounds. This study investigates the importance of vocal learning in the development of dolphin signature whistles and the influence of social interactions on that process. We used focal animal behavioral follows to observe six calves in Sarasota Bay, Fla., recording their social associations during their first summer, and their signature whistles during their second. The signature whistles of five calves were determined. Using dynamic time warping (DTW) of frequency contours, the calves’ signature whistles were compared to the signature whistles of several sets of dolphins: their own associates, the other calves’ associates, Tampa Bay dolphins, and captive dolphins. Whistles were considered similar if their DTW similarity score was greater than those of 95% of the whistle comparisons. Association was defined primarily in terms of time within 50 m of the mother/calf pair. On average, there were six dolphins with signature whistles similar to the signature whistles of each of the calves. These were significantly more likely to be Sarasota Bay resident dolphins than non-Sarasota dolphins, and (though not significantly) more likely to be dolphins that were within 50 m of the mother and calf less than 5% of the time. These results suggest that calves may model their signature whistles on the signature whistles of members of their community, possibly community members with whom they associate only rarely.

Keywords

Bottlenose dolphin Vocal learning Whistle development Social influences on learning 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank everyone who helped with this project, especially the interns: Kristine Jankowski, Leslie Burdett, Katie McHugh, Athena Rycyk, and Amy Whitt, as well as Stephanie Nowacek and the entire staff of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Project. We would like to thank Patrick Miller for all his help on acoustic data collection and for the use of his equipment, as well as Vincent Janik, Gary Stanbrough, Rebecca Thomas, M.J. Tucci, Karlen Wannop, and Stephanie Watwood. We would also like to thank Cannon’s Marina for their help with the boat. We are grateful to Jennifer Miksis, Laela Sayigh, Inês Mello, Mary Anne Daher, Mandy Hill, Lynne Williams, and Janet McIntosh for their help with obtaining signature whistles, and Michael Fripp for editing help. This research was funded by two grants from the NIH, grant no. 1-R01-DC04191-01, and NRSA grant no. 5-F32-DC00410-02 to D. Fripp. Mote Marine Laboratory provided a base of operations, and the Chicago Zoological Society and Dolphin Biology Research Institute provided partial support for the research vessel “Nai’a.” This research complied with the U.S. laws on animal research and was conducted under National Marine Fisheries Service General Authorization for Scientific Research no. 522-1435. This is submission number 10924 from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Fripp
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Caryn Owen
    • 2
  • Ester Quintana-Rizzo
    • 3
  • Ari Shapiro
    • 4
  • Kara Buckstaff
    • 5
  • Kristine Jankowski
    • 2
  • Randall Wells
    • 2
  • Peter Tyack
    • 4
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.Sarasota Dolphin Research ProjectSarasotaUSA
  3. 3.College of Marine ScienceUniversity of South FloridaSt. PetersburgUSA
  4. 4.Biology DepartmentWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  5. 5.Ocean Sciences DepartmentUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA
  6. 6.CarrolltonUSA

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