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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Dolphins Whistle in Unison
23 April 1999 5:00 pm
Learning to whistle the same tune may help gangs of male bottlenose dolphins stake a claim on females. Researchers have long known that small groups of male dolphins form alliances to scare off rivals for the attentions of females. And they have recognized that individual dolphins appear to adopt a distinctive "signature" whistle by the time they are 6 months old. But studying how they communicate in the wild is tricky, as it can be impossible to pinpoint which animal in a swirling school is producing a particular whistle.
In the shallow inshore waters of Shark Bay, Western Australia, however, wild dolphins allow researchers to wade among them and record their calls. Behavioral ecologists Rachel Smolker of the University of Vermont, Burlington, and John Pepper of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, took advantage of these conditions in the late 1980s, listening in on the chatter of one three-dolphin alliance over a 4-year period. Now, after comparing almost 1700 whistles produced by the trio, they've found that over time, the members gave up their own whistles and converged on a new, shared signal.
Learning the common voice probably allows the gang to announce "that they represent a formidable competitive force," say the authors, whose study will appear in Ethology later this year. Bioacoustics expert Bill Evans of Texas A&M University in Galveston calls the discovery "interesting," as it means that dolphins are among the few types of vertebrates--the others being birds and humans--capable of learning new vocalizations throughout their lives.