Scientists Discover That Dolphins Can Do Something Incredible That No Species Can Except Humans

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Dolphins are one of the most playful and magical species in the entire animal kingdom, and they’re also far more intelligent than we ever thought, especially according to recent research.

While these lovable sea mammals may seem like they’re always having a great time out there in the ocean inlets, rivers, and bays, the truth is that they are surrounded by threats on all sides.

These threats range from apex predators like large sharks and killer whale pods to poisonous animals that reside in the ocean, as well as human beings, of course.

Dolphins may not exactly be at the top of the food chain, but they are survivors that can be found on just about every corner of the Earth, as long as there is salt water and a food source for them to partake in.

Recently, scientists discovered something unique about dolphins that applies exclusively to them, and it’s shedding light on how these gentle and playful beings survive, and thrive, in the wild.

Scientists Discover Dolphins Can Assign and Remember Names, Form Teams

dolphins teams
Photo via Simon Allen

In the human world, friend groups, tribes, family heirarchies and similar structures are well known and implemented quite often, allowing groups of people to work in tandem to achieve common goals.

In the dolphin world, similar behavior has been recorded, according to Luke Rendell, a behavioral ecologist at the University of St. Andrews on what he has called a “ground-breaking study” on dolphins.

According to the research, dolphins have a concept of team membership, a concept that may sound simple but has actually only previously been recorded in humans.

The research may help show how these marine mammals maintain such complex and tight-knit societies.

“Like members of a street gang, male dolphins summon their buddies when it comes time to raid and pillage—or, in their case, to capture and defend females in heat,” an article published by stated.

“A new study reveals they do this by learning the “names,” or signature whistles, of their closest allies—sometimes more than a dozen animals—and remembering who consistently cooperated with them in the past.”

Male dolphins typically cooperate in pairs or trios to work together in order to find and “corral” a fertile female.

They also cooperate in alliances comprised of as many as 14 dolphins to defend against rival groups attempt to steal the female.

These males may stay together for their entire lifetimes, as long as 40 years, according to Stephanie King, a behavioral biologist at the University of Bristol.

These dolphins learn their signature whistle calls from their mothers and then learn to recognize and remember others’ whistles, the research showed.

Each whistle is similar to how a human being remembers another person’s name!

The information was uncovered using an underwater speaker that played the whistles of males to other males in various alliances.

dolphin pod

A drone was also used to film the dolphins’ responses.

“It was so striking,” said King, lead author of the study.

The findings suggest that dolphins have a “social concept of team membership, based on an individual’s previous cooperative investment.”

This system has clearly been successful.

Dolphins are not a threatened species, despite their relative lack of weaponry compared to the many giants of the deep they rub up against on a daily basis.

The next time you see a dolphin in the wild, keep this in mind, and maybe consider sharing a “whistle” of your own with the playful creatures — they just might remember you the next time you see them!

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