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Friday, January 2, 2009

A step farther in deciphering dolphin language

at Science Daily.

Researchers from the UK and USA have found that sound, specially in water, is not just the bidimensional amplitude/frequency graph we normally use but a much more complex 3D structure. Dophins and other cetaceans are immersed in such a 3D sound reality and they use it for eco-location and scanning, as well as for their daily communication.

The newly developed human technological ability to depict such complex sound structures and translate them in visual graphs, called CymaGlyphs may be the first step to understand dolphin language.

Dr. Horace Dobbs, a leading authority on dolphin-assisted therapy, has joined the team as consultant. "I have long held the belief that the dolphin brain, comparable in size with our own, has specialized in processing auditory data in much the same way that the human brain has specialized in processing visual data. Nature tends not to evolve brain mass without a need, so we must ask ourselves what dolphins do with all that brain capacity. The answer appears to lie in the development of brain systems that require huge auditory processing power. There is growing evidence that dolphins can take a sonic 'snap shot' of an object and send it to other dolphins, using sound as the transmission medium. We an therefore hypothesize that the dolphin's primary method of communication is picture based. Thus, the picture-based imaging method, employed by Reid and Kassewitz, seems entirely plausible."

The CymaGlyphs of dolphin sounds fall into three broad categories, signature whistles, chirps and click trains. There is general agreement among cetacean biologists that signature whistles represent the means by which individual dolphins identify themselves while click trains are involved in echolocation. Chirps are thought to represent components of language. Reid explained the visual form of the various dolphin sounds, "The CymaGlyphs of signature whistles comprise regular concentric bands of energy that resemble aircraft radar screens while chirps are often flower-like in structure, resembling the CymaGlyphs of human vocalizations. Click trains have the most complex structures of all, featuring a combination of tightly packed concentric bands on the periphery with unique central features."

Regarding the possibility of speaking dolphin, Kassewitz said, "I believe that people around the world would love the opportunity to speak with a dolphin. And I feel certain that dolphins would love the chance to speak with us - if for no other reason than self-preservation. During my times in the water with dolphins, there have been several occasions when they seemed to be very determined to communicate with me. We are getting closer to making that possible."

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