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Lonely Dolphin Learns To Speak Porpoise For His Friends

Aug 30, 2018 08:08 PM EDT
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Dolphin
Dolphins are known to be social, intelligent creatures. A short-beaked common dolphin named Kylie, who has been alone for nearly two decades, finds a group of porpoises for companionship.
(Photo : Pixabay)

A Scottish dolphin named Kylie have been living alone for about 17 years, but he has finally found a group of ocean friends.

The solitary short-beaked common dolphin, who now lives in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, appears to have learned to "speak" porpoise to interact with his companions after living alone for nearly two decades.

Lone Dolphin In Scottish Waters

According to a report from the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, Kylie likely got separated and lost from his group, thus ending up spending most of his life without the company of fellow dolphins.

Instead, the friendly dolphin became exposed to other marine animals, particularly harbor porpoises who live in the area. Since 2004, Kylie has been frequently spotted in the company of these cetaceans, often different individuals.

Learning To Produce Porpoise-Like Sounds

Through the years, it appears that Kylie has even learned how to communicate with his adopted family and friends. Researchers say that the short-beaked common dolphin has learned how to make sounds that are more similar to harbor porpoises than his own species.

"Several cetacean species, such as bottlenose dolphins, belugas and killer whales, have the ability to change their acoustic repertoire as a result of interactions with other species," University of Strathclyde PhD research student Mel Cosentino says in a statement.

Previous research have shown that dolphin clicks are broadband, with peak frequencies that are below 100 KHz. Dolphins also make other sounds for communication such as whistles and barks.

On the other hand, their cousins harbor porpoises only make sounds that are narrow-band, high-frequency clicks with peak frequencies of about 130 KHz. They use clicks for traveling, foraging, and communication.

Cosentino and his team analyzed endless audio recordings of Kylie's vocalizations, finding that he regularly produces clicks with peak frequencies going over 100 KHz and even reaching up to 130 KHz. He's found to make these sounds more often when he's around harbor porpoises than when he's alone.

This suggests that he has learned to imitate his companions' "language" in order to interact with them on a regular basis.

"This vocal learning ability has mainly been observed in captive individuals and few cases have been reported for wild cetaceans," Cosentino continues. "If further analysis shows this to be the case, it would be the first time a common dolphin, either in captivity or the wild, has demonstrated an ability for production learning, where it has learned to imitate another species."

Dolphins are well-known for their intelligence and remarkable learning capabilities. Recently, a 30-year study found how dolphins learn "tail walking" not just from humans but also from other dolphins who teach them the charming trick that's so often seen in ocean parks and zoos.

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