As if dolphins weren't already beautiful, majestic creatures who are perfect in almost every way (okay, except for the whole sexual assault thing) – scientists have recorded dolphins having conversations with one another. Yes, that's right: Dolphins have unique voices that chat back and forth. What are they talking about? Probably how horrible humans are.
But seriously – a group of researchers were studying a duo of dolphins when they honed in on a conversation between the two of them. These dolphin communications give us a little insight into the behavior and brain of this creature. It's not new information that dolphins are incredibly intelligent animals with the ability to "talk." What is new is that scientists were able to detect a "speech" pattern much like that of humans. So, it's only a matter of time before we figure out how to communicate with dolphins and tell them just how wonderful they are.
The Dolphins Would Have Full Conversations Back And Forth, Just Like Humans Do
Researchers at Karadag Nature Reserve in Ukraine were studying two dolphins when they made the startling discovery. Yasha and Yana were in their pool just chattin' it up when researchers noticed one would wait for the other to finish clicking before responding. Finding this peculiar, they decided to listen in and soon learned the dolphins were having full-blown conversations.
The clicks and pulses each dolphin used to communicate were all unique, signaling to researchers that they act as words or a collection of words. Each dolphin had a unique "voice" and would actively listen while the other was clicking.
"This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language," said one researcher.
We Already Know Some Dolphin Lingo
This isn't the first time researchers have picked up on dolphin conversations. In 2007, a group of Australian researchers determined certain clicks roughly translated to "hurry up," "I'm here, where is everyone," and "[there's] food over here." In total, they identified 200 different "words" or "phrases" that carry some sort of meaning, though not all were given English translations.
Researchers also discovered some dolphins might be using a type of sign language with their fins, though not a lot is known about that. Others have found that dolphins communicate more frequently in times of stress or while doing a difficult task.
Dolphins Are Really, Really Smart
This should come as no surprise, but dolphins are really, really smart. Dolphins have complex brains; they're so large, in fact, that their brain-to-body ratio is second only to humans. They have strong social structures, the ability to learn and teach, and self-awareness. Research shows they can also think abstractly, something not common for animals other than humans, and they have a very human-like memory.
But what makes them really unique is their ability to vocalize. They use a broad range of sounds – whistles, clicks, and pulses – to communicate with one another, as well as for echolocation. Certain species, like the bottleneck dolphin, use specialized clicks unique to each dolphin that researchers consider a sort of "name."