Author(s): Fripp D, Owen C, QuintanaRizzo E, Shapiro A, Buckstaff K,
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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.
This article was published in Anim Cogn
and referenced in Journal of Marine Science: Research & Development