Dolphins may have a language, new study suggests

VALLEJO, CA - JANUARY 17:  Bella, a Bottlenose Dolphin, swims in a pool with her new calf named Mirabella at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom on January 17, 2014 in Vallejo, California.  Bella, a nine year-old Bottlenose Dolphin, gave birth to her first calf on January 9, 2014 at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

VALLEJO, CA - JANUARY 17: Bella, a Bottlenose Dolphin, swims in a pool with her new calf named Mirabella at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom on January 17, 2014 in Vallejo, California. Bella, a nine year-old Bottlenose Dolphin, gave birth to her first calf on January 9, 2014 at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(WGNO) – A Russian researcher claims to have recorded a conversation between dolphins for the first time.

Two adult Black Sea Bottlenose dolphins, named Yasha and Yana, had a full conversation without interrupting each other. This interaction was taped by scientists and may have formed words and sentences with a series of pulses, Vyacheslav Ryabov says in a new paper. “Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people,” Ryabov said.

Joshua Smith, a research fellow at Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit, told CNN “I think it’s very early days to be drawing conclusions that the dolphins are using signals in a kind of language context, similar to humans.”

There are two different types of noises dolphins use for communication, whistles and clicks, also known as pulses. Ryabov separated the individual “non-coherent pulses” the two dolphins made and theorized that a pulse is one word and a collection of pulses is a sentence. “As this language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language, this indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins…their language can be ostensibly considered a high developed spoken language.”

In his paper, Ryabov calls for humans to create a device by which human beings can communicate with dolphins, “Humans must take the first step to establish relationships with the first intelligent inhabitants of the planet Earth by creating devices capable of overcoming the barriers that stand in the way of … communications between dolphins and people.”

Smith said while exciting, these results need to be replicated in open water environments before any conclusions are made.
“If we boil it down we pretty much have two animals in an artificial environment where reverberations are a problem … It wouldn’t make much sense for animals (in a small area) to make sounds over each other because they wouldn’t get much (sonar) information,” he said.

“It would be nice to see a variety of alternate explanations to this rather than the one they’re settling on.”