Scientists Find That Dolphins Use Baby Talk With Their Calves

Study Finds That Dolphins Do Baby Talk

Photo: slowmotiongli/Depositphotos

Humans are no strangers to “baby talk.” Parents will often speak in a higher pitched voice as well as talking slower and simpler to their children to help immerse them in human speech. This is because babies respond to our pitch and visual cues, even if they cannot understand language yet. Apparently, humans are not the only ones who do this either. New research has found that dolphins also change their vocalization when communicating with their young, producing their own kind of “baby talk.”

To arrive at this conclusion, scientists studied data from wild bottlenose dolphins that was collected over a period of 34 years. Just as humans call each other by their names, every dolphin has a unique whistle. However, when mother dolphins whistled in the vicinity of their calves, researchers found that these calls were at a higher frequency and with a wider range, which is very similar to human baby talk.

This prompted scientists to believe that dolphins alter their vocalization for the same reason humans do: to immerse their young in dolphin communication. Just like humans, dolphins mature and develop slowly, and spend a long time with their caregiver. Since dolphin vocalizations are also extremely complex, it probably takes a significant amount of practice for the calves to learn.

While these findings strongly suggest mother dolphins have some form of child-directed communication, it is not absolutely certain. If it does turn out to be true, however, it suggests even more similarities between humans and dolphins despite having evolved so distantly from one another.

h/t: [Psychology Today]

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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