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A suggestion for dolphin communication.

  1. Aug 31, 2005 #1
    I'm posting this in the astronomy forum since it's the closest forum to one devoted to the SETI search.
    I was doing some digitizing of voice recordings when I found a surprising effect. The first zip file attached below is of a voice recording in MP3 format. The digital sampling rate was at the default 44khz. The second zipped file is the result when I applied the slower sampling rate of 8khz to the first file.
    I was surprised to note the effect of using the slower sampling rate was to give the recording the sound of whale song or dolphin speech.
    (Note: I copied below discussion of experimental evidence that dolphins do use a form of "speech".)
    This effect is more pronounced with longer recordings. I had to shorten these to upload them to the forum. To observe this, use a program for digitally recording audio, then sample a saved voice recording at a slower rate than it was originally saved at. There are several free programs available on the net that have this capability.
    I thought then perhaps the difficulty in interpreting dolphin speech was that we record them at a slower sampling rate than what they are actually produced at. However, it is known that dolphin speech extends into higher frequencies:

    Oceanwide Science Institute's Research Page.
    "One of the main problems is the high frequency content of dolphin signals. Most dolphin species produce three types of signals: echolocation clicks, the faster paced burst pulse clicks, and whistles. Echolocation clicks are used by dolphins to detect and recognize objects in the water from the returning echoes. Burst pulse clicks and whistles on the other hand are thought to be used mainly for communication. Click signals are extremely short (50 microseconds) and broadband high frequency signals, ranging from 0 to over 200 kilohertz. Whistles are generally within human hearing range, but also have ultrasonic components called harmonics which can go up to over 100 kHz. However, conventional audio recording systems only go up to about 20 kHz (also the upper limit of human hearing), and therefore miss the major part of these signals."
    http://oceanwidescience.org/docs/4ch-UDDAS.html [Broken]

    The higher frequencies necessitate higher sampling rates to accurately record the analog signal. This is a result of the Nyquist theorem:

    Nyquist's Sampling Theorem.

    So I presume that when we hear recordings of dolphin speech, they are recorded at these higher sampling rates, or certainly for purposes of scientific study they are.
    Then perhaps the problem is that our human hearing can not adapt to the amount of date contained in the audio at these high sampling rates, or their rate of modulation.
    So instead of using our audio sense to interpret dolphin speech why not use a sense that operates at (much) higher frequencies? I'm thinking of our visual sense. I suggest associating the sounds in dolphin speech with colors. To represent intensity of the sound you could use the brightness of the color but I think this would be better represented by elevation, that is louder sounds would be projected higher on a screen.
    The idea is to use our ability to detect recurring patterns visually in color and form as the means to interpret dolphin speech. There are many different ways this could be implemented. In fact visual artists might be the best people to ask about the best ways to implement this and to be able to "read" the messages produced.

    Bob Clark

    Newsgroups: alt.animals.dolphins, rec.arts.sf.science, sci.anthropology, sci.cognitive, sci.astro.seti
    From: rgcl...@my-deja.com (Robert Clark)
    Date: 20 Jul 2001 21:46:15 -0700
    Local: Sat, Jul 21 2001 12:46 am
    Subject: Communicating with dolphins.

    The recent news of dolphins having the ability of self-recognition in
    mirrors previously believed to be restricted to humans and the great
    apes reminded me of a suggestion of Carl Sagan to demonstrate the
    communication abilities of dolphins.

    Dolphins recognize themselves in mirror

    Mirror self-recognition in the bottlenose dolphin: A case of cognitive
    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 98, Issue 10, 5937-5942, May 8, 2001
    "The ability to recognize oneself in a mirror is an exceedingly rare
    capacity in the animal kingdom. To date, only humans and great apes
    have shown convincing evidence of mirror self-recognition. Two
    dolphins were exposed to reflective surfaces, and both demonstrated
    responses consistent with the use of the mirror to investigate marked
    parts of the body. This ability to use a mirror to inspect parts of
    the body is a striking example of evolutionary convergence with great
    apes and humans."
    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/98/10/5937 [full text]

    An earlier similar experiment is also available online:

    Evidence of self-awareness in the bottlenose dolphin
    (Tursiops truncatus)
    "No single test presented here proves self-recognition in bottlenose
    dolphins. The tests were developed mainly from primate research
    paradigms, and their limitations for interpretations of dolphin
    behavior are apparent. Nevertheless, the data taken together make a
    compelling case for self-recognition in this species. Four of five
    dolphins apparently examined their marks in a mirror; most brought
    objects to the mirror and played with them in front of it, even moving
    the object back when it drifted out of view; and most of the
    mirror-mode television tests designed to distinguish self-examination
    from social behavior suggested self-examination. Not only did dolphins
    attend to their mirror (or television) images less than 1% of the time
    as compared to 100% for real dolphins, but they engaged in different
    behavior with mirrors than they did with other dolphins. The results
    obtained in the experiments presented here are consistent with the
    hypothesis that these animals are using the mirror to examine
    themselves. More definitive results, however, will have to come from
    methodologies developed specifically for dolphins."
    http://planet-hawaii.com/earthtrust/delbook.html [Broken] [full text]

    Sagan wrote about having visited a dolphin research center as part of
    his research in SETI communication. In his book, _The Cosmic
    Connection_, first published 1973, he suggested a means to test the
    idea that dolphins can communicate complex information among

    "Dolphin anecdotes make marvelous cocktail party accounts, an
    unending source of casual conversation. One of the difficulties that I
    discovered with research into dolphin language and intelligence was
    precisely this fascination with anecdote; the really critical
    scientific tests were somehow never performed.
    "For example, I repeatedly urged that the following experiment be
    done: Dolphin A is introduced into a tank that is eqipped with two
    underwater audio speakers. Each hydrophone is attached to an automatic
    fish dispenser catering tasty dolphin fare. One speaker plays Bach,
    the other plays Beatles. Which speaker is playing Bach or Beatles (a
    different composition each time) at any given moment is determined
    randomly. Whenever Dolphin A goes to the appropriate speaker - let us
    say the one playing Beatles - he is rewarded with a fish. I think
    there is no doubt that any dolphin will - because of his great
    interest in, and facility with, the audio spectrum - be able soon to
    distinguish between Bach and Beatles. But that is not the significant
    part of the experiment. What is significant is the number of trials
    before Dolphin A becomes sophisticated - that is, always know that if
    he wishes a fish he should go to the speaker playing Beatles.
    "Now Dolphin A is separated from the speakers by a barrier of plastic
    broad-gauge mesh. He can see through the barrier, he can smell and
    taste through it, and most important, he can hear and "speak" through
    it. But he cannot swim through it. Dolphin B is then introduced into
    the area of the speakers. Dolphin B is naive; that is he has had no
    prior experience with underwater fish dispensers, Bach, or Beatles.
    Unlike the well-known difficulty in finding
    "naive" college students with whom to perform experiments on cannibis
    sativa [ahem], there will be no difficulty finding dolphins lacking
    extensive experience with Bach and Beatles. Dolphin B must go through
    the same learning procedure as did Dolphin A. But now each time that
    Dolphin B (at first randomly) succeeds, not only does the dispenser
    provide him with a fish, but a fish is thrown to Dolphin A, who is
    able to witness the learning experience of Dolphin B. If Dolphin A is
    hungry, it is distinctly to his advantage to communicate what he knows
    about Bach and Beatles to Dolphin B. If Dolphin B is hungry, it is to
    his advantage to pay attention to the information that Dolphin A may
    have. The question, therefore is: Does Dolphin B have a steeper
    learning curve than Dolphin A? Does he reach the plateau of
    sophistication in fewer trials or less time?
    "If such experiments were repeated many times and it were found that
    the learning curves for Dolphin B were in a statistically significant
    sense always steeper than those of Dolphin A, communication of
    moderately interesting information between two dolphins would have
    been established. It might be a verbal description of the difference
    between Bach and the Beatles - to my mind, a difficult but not
    impossible task - or it might simply be the distinction between right
    and left in each trial, until Dolphin B catches on. This is not the
    best experimental design to test dolphin-to-dolphin communication, but
    it is typical of a large category of experiments that could be
    performed. To my knowledge and regret, no such experiments have been
    performed with dolphins to date."
    _The Cosmic Connection_
    Ch. 24., "Some of my best friends are dolphins", pp. 177-178, 2000

    Sagan wrote this in 1973. Anyone know if such experiments have been
    performed since then?

    Bob Clark


    Newsgroups: alt.animals.dolphins, rec.arts.sf.science, sci.anthropology, sci.cognitive, sci.astro.seti
    From: rgcl...@my-deja.com (Robert Clark)
    Date: 24 Jul 2001 16:51:36 -0700
    Local: Tues, Jul 24 2001 7:51 pm
    Subject: Re: Communicating with dolphins.

    I was informed via email of research by Bastian and by Markov
    on the question of dolphin communication:

    J. Bastian (1967)
    The transmission of arbitrary environmental information between
    bottlenosed dolphins.
    in: R.G. Busnel (ed): Animal sonar systems - Biology and bionics,
    vol 2, pp. 807-873
    NATO Advanced Study Institute / Lab. de Physiologie Acoustique,

    A.V. Zanin, V.I. Markov and I.E. Sidorova (1990)
    The ability of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, to report
    arbitrary information
    in: J.A. Thomas and R.A. Kastelein (eds): Sensory Abilities of
    Cetaceans - Laboratory and Field Evidence, pp. 685-697
    NATO ASI Series, Series A: Life Sciences, vol 196, Plenum Press,
    London and New York

    After a web search I found a site by Kenneth W. LeVasseur that
    describes this research:

    Dolphin Intelligence and the Captivity Issue
    http://whales.magna.com.au/POLICIES/levasseur/ [Broken]

    To implement an experiment of the type Sagan proposes it would
    probably be better to test for simpler discrimination tasks at
    first than the one he mentions. However, I did find on the Dolphin
    Research Institute site an experiment that suggests dolphins
    might be able to make the complex melody form discrimination
    described by Sagan. I discuss it below.
    In the email I received, it was suggested that in the experiments
    of Bastain and Markov there was simple "binary information"
    exchange. I presume this means communicating something like a "yes"
    or a "no" to the other dolphin. Say for example when Dolphin B
    swims by the correct speaker, Dolphin A lets out an enthusiastic
    squeak but gives a muted response or no response when it swims by
    the other speaker. Another way to signal in a simple way would be
    for Dolphin A to position itself in front of the correct speaker
    if the speakers were aligned in front of the mesh screen.
    I think there should be ways to overcome these objections. One
    possibility would make a success a little more difficult by not
    releasing a fish unless a dolphin goes first to the correct speaker
    and does not visit the incorrect speaker. This would take a longer
    time to train but I think it should be doable.
    Also the speakers should not be placed so that Dolphin A can
    signal which is the right one by positioning itself. You should
    also increase the number of speakers the dolphin has to decide
    from rather than two. Also to increase the dolphins desire to
    visit a speaker you could have a fish visible and with its scent
    detectable attached to each speaker, only the fish is not released
    unless the dolphin visits the correct speaker.
    Then you could observe whether Dolphin B is able to directly go
    to the correct speaker. If it swims around but does eventually get
    to the right speaker and in a faster time than Dolphin A that might
    suggest it was yes/no information being communicated. Note that
    Dolphin A remembering how long it took for its own accomplishment
    of the task would have motivation for communicating directly which
    speaker to go to.
    Note that a success in fast learning for Dolphin B could mean
    the required discrimination was communicated or it could mean
    the number of the speaker to go to was communicated. However,
    even if it was number communicated I think that in itself would
    be significant.
    You would also want to do the experiment where some other specific
    behaviors need to be performed to receive the fish. One example
    might be: "bite the ball on top of the correct speaker." You would
    want the behavior to be something that dolphins would naturally be
    able to communicate if they did indeed have a natural language.
    If dolphins communicate naturally then you would expect the correct
    response would be communicated immediately. But in the Bastian
    experiment, it took several trials to get the correct response.
    LeVasseur makes the argument this was because they were quite young
    when captured. In the Markov experiments they did use older dolphins,
    but from the description it does not appear the communication was
    immediate here either. It's not made clear here whether the dolphins
    used were from a common group that would be expected to communicate
    if they indeed did have a natural language. The situation may be
    analogous to that of human beings where separate groups develop
    different languages. In future experiments it may be best to
    insure the dolphins are from a common group. Nevertheless, Markov
    et.al. did conclude that dolphins do have a complex language.
    Also, the research by Markov seems to show there is less
    communication under stressful conditions. Perhaps the experiments
    should be performed in the wild as well as ensuring that the dolphins
    are from a common group. You could probably train one dolphin in the
    discrimination task when it temporarily, voluntarily separates from
    one or more members of the group, suspending training when the second
    dolphin you want to train comes within view of the training. However,
    the strategy of training another dolphin while the first dolphin
    observes would be more difficult to implement without keeping the
    first dolphin in an enclosure. Perhaps one possibility in the wild
    would be like if there is an area separated from the open sea by a
    rocky crag. It takes some minutes to swim around the crag, but the
    dolphins are familiar with it and do it commonly. You carve an
    opening in the crag and place a screen across the opening so that
    a dolphin that happened to swim to the separated area would now be
    able to view his companions in the open sea.
    In some experiments, you might want it that when Dolphin B is
    being trained, Dolphin A is not able to see the position of the
    speakers so that the information communicated has to be of a more
    complex character to identify the correct speaker to Dolphin B.
    However, I recall reading that a dolphin can "read" the echolocation
    signals of another dolphin. So you might need to insure this
    information also can not be communicated.

    The page from the Dolphin Research Institute that suggests dolphins
    might be able to distinguish melodic form is at:

    Hearing Capabilities
    "Recognizing Different Melodies
    "Dolphins can recognize different melodies (Ralston & Herman, 1995).
    They possess an apparently unique ability among non-human animals to
    recognize familiar melodies across octave changes.
    "In contrast, songbirds appear to regard such changes as different
    melodies, focusing on the absolute pitch of the various notes rather
    than the relative changes in pitch."
    http://www.dolphin-institute.org/research/dolphinres.html#Dolphin [Broken]
    Hearing Capabilities

    This is discussed in:

    Ralston, J. V. & Herman, L. M. (1995). Perception and generalization
    of frequency contours by a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).
    Journal of Comparative Psychology, 109, 268-277.

    A nice review of the research on the dolphin communication question
    is on the page:

    http://neoteny.eccosys.com/~bigtwin/MOON/moon02.html [Broken]

    On his page, Kenneth LeVasseur also suggests using other methods
    than operant conditioning with fish rewards to train the dolphins:

    http://whales.magna.com.au/POLICIES/levasseur/levass3b.html [Broken]

    Bob Clark


    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2005 #2


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    So is the main point here that dolphins are smart? You want find any argument here on that point. It has been long suspected from dolphin behavior and from their brain size to mass ratio.
  4. Aug 31, 2005 #3


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    Although this discussion may be an offshoot of a SETI discussion, it seems to pertain exclusively to dolphins. So, I'll send this topic to the bio forum. However, the purpose of this topic is not clear. Is there a question here? Just looking for opinions on the subject?
  5. Sep 4, 2005 #4
    Thanks for the response. It is alright to move the thread since there is a link to it in the astronomy forum if anyone wants to contribute to it.
    My interest in the subject came from reading Carl Sagan's discussion on dolphin communication in his book "The Cosmic Connection." His discussion as mine was meant to extend to a broader context of communication between human and nonhuman intelligences.
    The phenomenon I discuss might obtain as well in the realm of SETI
    communication, that is the sampling rate might be too high to detect
    any pattern in audio, but such patterns might be detectable when translated into a search for visual patterns.
    Then an extension of the SETI@Home project might be to send out to the
    participants the translation of the received signals into visual color
    arrangements, with the participants actively analyzing the results for
    patterns. This is different than for SETI@Home currently in that this
    is only done by the participants computers and only looks for pulses.
    This is of course highly theoretical. As a first test, we could see for example if highly compressed audio or video that is sampled at a high frequency rate has discernible patterns when translated into such color arrangements.

    Bob Clark
  6. Sep 4, 2005 #5
    Yes, but the recent experiments to prove dolphins have the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors is very interesting.
    Actually I'm surprised some other animals besides primates and dolphins don't have this. Bears for example and predators in general are intelligent creatures, elephants as well. Perhaps this hasn't been tested on them yet?
    Also, the purpose of the post was to suggest a means to actually accomplish the communication between dolphins and humans.

    Bob Clark
  7. Jul 19, 2011 #6
    [quote/]Yes, but the recent experiments to prove dolphins have the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors is very interesting.
    Actually I'm surprised some other animals besides primates and dolphins don't have this. Bears for example and predators in general are intelligent creatures, elephants as well. Perhaps this hasn't been tested on them yet?
    Also, the purpose of the post was to suggest a http://www.3gcgroup.com/index.php/contact/careers" [Broken] means to actually accomplish the communication between dolphins and humans. [/quote]

    I find it amazing that they can recognize themselves in the mirror. There must be a way we can communicate with them! but then again, havnt other animals been found to recognize themselves but no way to communicate has been found...
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  8. Jul 19, 2011 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    You just replied to a 6 year old thread and none of the particpants exist.
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