Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dolphin's calf death brings light on dolphin communication

Despite the recent loss of a newborn dolphin calf, a marine mammal acoustic researcher said Sunday the ability to record sounds emanating from the calf as it was born may provide new insight into dolphin communications.

"We have his first sounds, which took place about two seconds after birth," said Jack Kassewitz of

Before that, scientists had wondered whether dolphins took a long time to learn sound and echo location or whether they were hardwired at birth.

The calf was born last Monday to a deaf Atlantic bottlenose dolphin named Castaway.

After it died Friday, volunteers at the Marine Mammal Conservancy named it Wilson after actor Tom Hanks' volleyball companion in the 2000 motion picture Cast Away.

Kassewitz believes it is the first time an infant's sounds have been recorded in an isolated environment without multiple dolphins present.

"With Wilson we can now see exactly how the first parts of language in dolphins exist," he said.
Preliminary necropsy findings did not reveal the cause of Wilson's death.

On the Net:

Marine Mammal Conservancy:

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"