We've known for years that dolphins are smart, but researchers are beginning to discover that the marine mammals may even have a language all their own, according to research in the St. Petersburg Polytechnical Journal.
Researchers in the Ukraine used an underwater microphone that can distinguish between different animal "voices" to record a conversation between two dolphins named Yasha and Yana.
When they analyzed the conversation, a series of distinct clicks and whistles, they discovered that the dolphins were talking to each other in complete sentences with up to five words each, lead researcher Dr. Vyacheslav Ryabov told the Telegraph.
"This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language, this indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins, and their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language."
Researchers at the Karadag Nature Reserve recorded two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins and discovered that each marine mammal would listen to the other, without interrupting, before replying, Ryabov told the Telegraph.
"Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people."Animal researchers have known for decades that dolphins use more than 1,000 distinct clicks and whistles to communicate with each other and express the emotions of happiness, stress, or confusion.
In 2007, Australian scientists were able to pinpoint specific clicks and whistles used to convey the presence of food and express impatience as well as loneliness
Now, researchers have discovered that dolphins change the volume and frequency of their clicks the way humans turn noise into speech, Ryabov told the Telegraph.
"We can assume that each pulse represents a phoneme or a word of the dolphin's spoken language."We still don't know what the dolphins are saying to each other, but Ryabov told the Telegraph there was no doubt the animals have their own language and it's up to us to figure out how to talk to them.
"Humans must take the first step to establish relationships with the first intelligent inhabitants of the planet Earth by creating devices capable of overcoming the barriers that stand in the way of using languages and in the way of communications between dolphins and people."We've known for a long time that dolphins are intelligent creatures with large and complex brains, but the news that they speak in complete sentences means they could be more like humans than previously thought.
The news comes on the heels of the decision by California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill outlawing orca breeding and captivity programs like the ones formerly found in Sea World parks.
The park stopped breeding orcas, also called killer whales, earlier this year and announced the end of its theatrical shows in March.
The bill only affects killer whales and doesn't extend to dolphins, sea lions, or whales, but public opinion has been shifting against the park ever since the debut of the 2013 documentary Blackfish.
Sea World has been beset with declining ticket sales and lawsuits fueled by public outrage over its treatment of killer whales, and it's possible the park may soon be forced to stop all of its marine mammal breeding programs.There are several petitions circulating online that are calling for an end to captive dolphin breeding programs, including one on We The People, a White House initiative that promises a response from the president if signed by 100,000 people.
They note the differences in life expectancy, health, and number of births between wild dolphins and those kept in captivity.
What do you think of the discovery that dolphins speak in complete sentences?
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]