Dolphin Sounds – How Do They Learn to Whistle?

Every dolphin learns to whistle shortly after they are born. These whistles are thought to be used as a sort of greeting or way for dolphins to introduce themselves to and communicate with others in a pod. They are also used so the mother can find her young calf when they are separated. For this reason, the calf needs to learn this whistle as soon as possible after birth. These dolphin sounds are critically important for survival.

By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007.

By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever wonder how dolphins learn to make their “signature whistles”? I always though each whistle was unique, but it seems I was wrong.

Recently, I was reading a fun book called “Dolphins: What They Can Teach Us”. This is a book for children with some very interesting facts about dolphins. I learned something new. The author explains how calves learn different whistles from their mothers depending on whether they are male or female.

The female calf creates a whistle which is a slight variation of her mother’s. The male calf’s whistle is the exact same as his mother’s. Researchers believe there are very good reasons for this distinction.

The female calf eventually comes back to her mother’s pod when she has calves of her own. This pod helps her raise her young. Since she comes back to live with the pod, her whistle must be different from her mother’s to avoid confusion.

The male offspring, on the other hand, leaves his mother and may not encounter his mother again for many years, if ever. In this case, it is important that his whistle mimic his mother’s so they can recognize each other as family and not as possible mates! This whistle mimicry would also help him recognize his brothers too.

In my opinion, dolphin researchers have the best job on the planet.  I can only imagine how exciting it would be to unlock some of these dolphin mysteries. I should have studied marine biology…


About wherethedolphinsswim

I've been vacationing with wild dolphins for more than 20 years. You can do it too!
This entry was posted in Dolphin Facts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dolphin Sounds – How Do They Learn to Whistle?

  1. This is so interesting! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Carol says:

    Nature can make things so simple…if we just take the time to understand. Very interesting post.

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