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What Noise Does a Dolphin Make?

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: May 3, 2023

Dolphins are not only intelligent and playful creatures, but also skilled communicators. Through their intricate system of vocalisations, dolphins are able to communicate and navigate their environment. In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating world of dolphin vocalisations and how they are used.

Whistles: The Dolphin’s Signature Sound

Whistles are the most common type of vocalisation produced by dolphins. They are used for communication and socialisation within a pod. Each dolphin has its own unique whistle, which they use to identify themselves and other members of their pod. Whistles vary in pitch, duration and frequency, and can convey different emotions, such as excitement, aggression or calmness.

Clicks: The Key to Dolphin Echolocation

Clicks are the main tool dolphins use for echolocation, a process similar to sonar used by bats and submarines. Dolphins produce rapid series of clicks and listen for the echoes that bounce back, allowing them to determine the location, size, and shape of objects in their environment. Researchers have found that dolphins are able to use echolocation to detect objects as small as a grape, and even distinguish between different types of fish based on their echo signature.

Burst Pulses: The Short but Powerful Vocalization

Burst pulses are another type of vocalisation used by dolphins for echolocation. These short, high-frequency bursts of sound help dolphins locate prey in murky water or identify other dolphins during socialisation. Burst pulses are particularly useful in detecting fast-moving prey, such as fish, and help dolphins to catch them more efficiently.

Echolocation Signals: The Most Complex Dolphin Vocalization

Echolocation signals are the most complex type of vocalisation produced by dolphins, and are used exclusively for echolocation. These sounds are often described as “click trains” and are produced at a high rate of speed, allowing dolphins to build a detailed image of their environment. This is particularly useful when navigating through complex environments, such as coral reefs.

A beautiful shot of a Common bottlenose dolphin living his best life under the sea

Communication and Socialization: How Dolphins Talk to Each Other

Dolphins are highly social animals, and they use vocalisations to communicate with each other. Whistles are the most important type of vocalisation for communication and socialisation, and dolphins use them to express their emotions and coordinate group activities. In addition to whistles, dolphins also use body language and physical touch to communicate with each other. Researchers have found that dolphins have a complex and nuanced language, and that they are capable of communicating with each other over long distances.

The Impact of Human Activity on Dolphin Vocalizations

Unfortunately, human activities, such as shipping, oil drilling and sonar use, are causing a significant impact on the underwater world and dolphin vocalisations. Anthropogenic noise can interfere with dolphins’ ability to communicate and navigate, which can have serious consequences for their survival. Research has shown that noise pollution can cause dolphins to alter their vocalisations, disrupt their ability to communicate with each other, and cause stress and disorientation, making it harder for them to navigate and find food.

Volunteering with Dolphins: Learning More about These Fascinating Creatures

If you’re interested in learning more about dolphins and their vocalisations, volunteering with GVI is a great way to get involved. GVI offers a variety of marine conservation volunteer programs around the world, including marine conservation programs in Tenerife that focus on the protection and study of dolphins. Volunteers can participate in research and data collection, monitor and record dolphin behaviour, and learn about their vocalisations and communication. By volunteering with GVI in the Canary Islands, not only will you have the opportunity to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat, but you will also contribute to their conservation and help protect their environment.

In conclusion, dolphin vocalisations are a fascinating subject that continues to be studied by scientists. These sounds play a crucial role in dolphin communication and navigation, and are a key factor in their survival. It is important for us to understand the impact of human activities on dolphin vocalisations and take measures to protect these intelligent and social creatures.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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