How Do Dolphins Communicate?

Dolphins communicate with one another in a number of different ways by creating sounds, making physical contact with one another and through the use of body language.

Vocally dolphins communicate using high-pitched clicking sounds and whistles.

Each dolphin communicates at a slightly different vocal pitch which allows them to understand which dolphin is speaking.

This is especially important when traveling in pods that contain multiple dolphins where a mother may lose sight of her child or when two friends cannot find one another.

As stated earlier body language is also important for dolphins and their survival.

Body language can be used to indicate a number of thing such as a nearby predator, to indicate to other dolphins that they have found food, to demonstrate their level of fitness and prospect for a mating partner among other things.

How does a dolphins echolocation work?

Echolocation is a biological sonar used by dolphins and other marine mammals to locate objects in their environment.

Echolocation works by creating high or low-pitched sounds and measuring the time it takes those sounds to bounce off of nearby objects and back to the host.

By using echolocation dolphins can determine how far an object is, what direction it is traveling in, if it is above or below them, how large it is and whether it is a dense or hollow object.

This is extremely vital and important for dolphins because their vision is often limited underwater and they need to be able to locate food and avoid threats while traveling in the sometimes pitch black ocean.

Without it dolphins would have a much more difficult time trying to find food and avoiding threats in the ocean.

How dolphins use body language to communicate

Dolphins use a variety of different body language signals to communicate with one another and maintain observation of their surroundings.

Some of these signals or action may include spy hopping, tail slapping, jumping/leaping and bumping into each other.

Spy hopping

Spy hopping occurs when a dolphin surfaces partially above the water for an extended amount of time exposing its head and keeping its eyes slightly above or below the water so that it can observe its surroundings.

Spy hopping is believed to be used to watch out for predators and to keep the dolphin alert of its surroundings.

Tail and flipper slapping

Tail slapping occurs when a dolphin lifts its tail or flippers out of the water and slaps it hard against the water creating a loud slapping noise.

Tail/flipper slapping may be used to show aggression, warn nearby dolphins of a potential danger, and as a sign of playful communication among dolphins.

The meaning of a dolphin’s tail or flipper slapping may be dependent upon how loud and repetitively the dolphin slaps its tail or flippers against the water.

Dolphins have also been trained by humans to slap their tails/flippers as a way to communicate a specific desire or need such as a desire to eat or play.

Bumping and physical contact

Dolphins are extremely social creatures and part of their communication involves physical contact with one another.

Harsh bumping or charging can be a sign of aggression such as to fend off competing dolphins during mating periods.

Light bumping or touching can indicate a friendly loving gesture or to indicate a specific desirable response.

Jumping and leaping

Dolphins can often be seen jumping or leaping out of the ocean, especially when in a pod with other active dolphins.

Jumping can be both used as a playful gesture when a dolphin wants to show off their youthfulness and as a way to watch out for potential predators in the distance.

Jumping can also be used as a way to conserve energy since it requires less energy to jump through the ocean than it does to continually swim through the ocean.

How man-made sounds may be affecting the dolphins environment

Sound is extremely important to the survival of the dolphin species.

Dolphins have a very acute sense of hearing which they use to communicate with one another, listen out for predators or threats in the area and find food.

In addition to having an acute sense of hearing dolphins also use echolocation to locate objects in their surroundings and navigate the ocean.

Over the years man-made technology has been steadily advancing and with these advancements in technology there are new sounds being created and emitted in the ocean which can affect, impair and/or confuse a dolphins sense of hearing and direction.

One possible example of artificial man-made sound is the use of sonar which humans use to locate objects underwater and navigate the ocean.

Although sonar is a great invention that has helped many people safely travel through the ocean studies have shown that there is the possibility that sonar may end up confusing dolphins and whales causing them to lose their sense of direction.

While further research has to be done in order to find out exactly what sounds are affecting dolphins some scientists and marine biologists have already expressed concerns regarding the effects of  man-made sounds on the oceans ecosystem.

Some of these man-made sounds include large motors from ships, sonar, loud planes and a variety of marine tools which may interfere with a dolphins sense of hearing and ability to echo-locate.