Flipper on Line 1? UT researchers closer to figuring out how dolphins talk

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Researchers at the University of Tennessee are another step closer to figuring out how dolphins talk to one another.

"Cetacean vocalizations are highly varied and presumably serve varied functions. So determining what aspects of the vocalizations hold information is crucial to be able to classify them and to be able to understand their meaning," said lead author Arik Kershenbaum, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

Thanks to a new method which focuses more on changes in pitch than frequency, scientists could assign hundreds of signature whistles to over 20 individual dolphins.

The new algorithm is based on the Parsons code, which researchers said had been typically used to find music in databases.

"The Parsons code is a robust way to compare dolphins' signature whistles because it is able to home in on the variation in frequency that actually matters. It discards the information that isn't useful for the analysis," said Kershenbaum.

Previously, scientists had been classify dolphin whistles using a spectrograph. Doing it that way though, proved time-consuming, needed more data, and vulnerable to human error.

Researchers believe that by identifying the information in these whistles they can learn how they affect social behavior.

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