Dolphin Names

Not content to simply do amazing things like sing, play games, or snoop on each other, now scientists have discovered that dolphins are now taking away yet another trait previously thought to be unique to humans — dolphins have names.

According to an article by Bjorn Carey published on MSNBC:

Humans are one of the few species that use sound modulation instead of simple voice differences to identify individuals.   For example, a person can recognize the name "John" whether it’s being said by Gilbert Gottfried or James Earl Jones.

A team of researchers led by Vincent Janik of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland has established that a dolphin will choose its own name as an infant and use that name throughout its life.   While scientists have long known that dolphins identify themselves with names, they had previously thought the animal’s unique voice to be a key ingredient of the call.   They’ve now discovered that dolphins recognize their names as patterns of variations in vocal pitch – rather than the voice itself.   Having (and using) names based on sound patterns rather than just a unique voice signature, is a behavior that had been thought to be common only to certain monkeys & humans.

Updated:   You can read additional coverage of this at the Times Online website.