Skip to main content
  1. News
  2. Science & Space

Discovery: Bottlenose dolphins proven to use names

See also

Stephanie L. King and Vincent M. Janik from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of Saint Andrews reported the first definite proof that bottlenose dolphins use and respond to distinctive whistles that are similar to names as used by humans in the July 22, 2013, issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More Photos

The researchers followed a group of wild bottlenose dolphins off the east coast of Scotland in the Moray Firth and in Saint Andrews Bay from June to August 2001 and May to September 2010. The scientists recorded a synthetic version of each dolphin’s signature whistle.

The scientists then tested the dolphin's response to different whistles. The dolphins were exposed to signature whistles from themselves, from group members the dolphins were familiar with, and from dolphins that were not part of the group.

Wild bottlenose dolphins responded to their own signature whistles by calling back, but did not respond to the other whistles.

The findings suggest that dolphins might use signature whistles as labels to address or contact individuals of the same species, and the use of identity signals mirrors the human convention of naming individuals. The behavior is called vocal labeling in humans.



  • Baseball Hall of Fame
    The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown welcomes six new inductees
  • 2012 do-over
    If we were to re-do the 2012 election, a new poll suggests Romney would win
  • Boko Haram
    Boko Haram kidnaps the wife of the vice prime minister of Cameroon
    World News
  • Ceasefire breaks
    Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu claims Hamas broke another brief ceasefire
  • Close call with CME
    Scientists tell how Earth survived a giant solar flare back in 2012
  • Comic-Con
    What's going on at Comic-Con? Get all the latest updates here

Related Videos:

  • Buzz Aldrin and the American flag on the moon
    <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>
  • Orbital Sciences rocket brings supplies and experiments to space station
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518318477" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url=""></div>
  • Liftoff Apollo 11
    <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>