Captive Bottlenose Dolphins Do Discriminate Human-Made Sounds Both Underwater and in the Air

TitleCaptive Bottlenose Dolphins Do Discriminate Human-Made Sounds Both Underwater and in the Air
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsLima, Alice, Sébilleau Mélissa, Boye Martin, Durand Candice, Hausberger Martine, and Lemasson Alban
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Type of ArticleReview
ISBN Number1664-1078
EndNote Rec Number11825
Keywordsindividual-specific sound cue,individual identity,cetacean,Auditory Perception,bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) spontaneously emit individual acoustic signals that identify them to group members. We tested whether these cetaceans could learn artificial individual sound cues played underwater and whether they would generalize this learning to airborne sounds. Dolphins are thought to perceive only underwater sounds and their training depends largely on visual signals. We investigated the behavioral responses of seven dolphins in a group to learned human-made individual sound cues, played underwater and in the air. Dolphins recognised their own sound cue after hearing it underwater as they immediately moved towards the source, whereas when it was airborne they gazed more at the source of their own sound cue but did not approach it. We hypothesize that they perhaps detected modifications of the sound induced by air or were confused by the novelty of the situation, but nevertheless recognized they were being “targeted”. They did not respond when hearing another group member’s cue in either situation. This study provides further evidence that dolphins respond to individual-specific sounds and that these marine mammals possess some capacity for processing airborne acoustic signals.