Your current Zootles issue, Dolphins, features the work of Dr. Kathleen Dudzinski, a noted scientist who is an expert on dolphin communication. By watching dolphins and listening to the sounds they make, she has learned what different sounds mean. A dolphin whistle might say, “Hey, it’s me!” A dolphin squawk followd by a whistle might say, “I want to play.”

Dr. Dudzinski will tell you that while such sounds are very communicative, however, they are not real language.  Just as a human laugh indicates happiness, or a guffaw can mean disbelief, dolphin sounds can convey mood or reactions or any number of things–but they are not the complex building blocks of language. Still, dolphins have no trouble communicating. In addition to sounds, they use touch (gentle or harsh) and visual signals to get their ideas across.

If you found yourself suddenly alone in a tribe of people who did not speak your language, Dr. Dudzinski believes you would still have no trouble communicating enough to cooperatively build something, hunt for food, or maybe even fall in love. So it is for the dolphin. Dolphins can’t share abstract ideas, but they can still let each other know how they feel. For them, that is language enough!

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