According to the scientists, it is an “intriguing case” of convergent evolution, that is, of the development of similar types of communication strategies in different species.
A scientific team from the US, Italy, UK and Denmark has discovered that bottlenose dolphins modify their communication signals when they are with their young, in the same way that human mothers speak to their babies in ‘mother tongue’ ( ‘motherese’ in English). The finding, the scientists note, adds “new evidence about the similarities between dolphins and humans.”
“The findings are comparable to human mothers, caregivers who modify their speech to babies and children,” reads the statement from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which led the research, and whose results provide new evidence of an adult non-human mammal that uses a special language to bond with their young.
An analysis of the recordings of 19 adult female dolphins from a population investigated for more than 50 years in waters near Sarasota Bay, Florida, revealed that female bottlenose dolphins modified their whistles, producing peculiar sounds with significantly higher maximum frequencies. high frequencies and wider frequency ranges in the presence of their young, details the study published this Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“Similarities Between Dolphins and Humans”
“It’s really exciting to find evidence from CDC [‘comunicacion dirigida a ninos’, en ingles] in another mammalian species,” said study co-lead author Laela Sayigh, noting that the fact that dolphins communicate in ‘motherese’ is a great example and a “intriguing case” of convergent evolution, that is, of the development of similar types of communication strategies in different species.
“This study adds new evidence about the similarities between dolphins and humans,” said co-author Nicole El Haddad, stressing that she is hopeful that this finding can raise awareness about the protection of this “charismatic species”. The scientists stress that this discovery has the “potential to enhance population monitoring efforts” in order to understand the overall health of wild dolphins.
They also note that the results suggest that the mother tongue in these mammals likely plays some role, but they have not yet been able to test such a hypothesis and need to investigate further to better understand the mechanical basis and functions of this type of communication.