Did you know that dolphins are believed to be the world’s second most intelligent animals, with only humans displaying greater brainpower? Still we keep them captive and train them to do tricks, as if they don’t have emotions or desires of their own.
Anyone who watched “Flipper” as a kid has heard the distinct cackles and squeaks that a dolphin uses to communicate. Scientists have long known that the dolphins speak to each other with these noises, and are likely trying to speak to us as well. Only we don’t understand that particular language. If we could, it could be a big step toward finding out just how smart they really are. Good thing scientists are hard at work creating a device that might do just that.
A team from the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, working with colleagues from tech company Fusion, Inc., have created an underwater speaker (pictured below) that’s capable of playing back the dolphin’s entire acoustic range. The device not only produces the dolphins’ low-frequency sub-20 kiloHertz sounds, which can be mimicked and heard by humans, but also the high-frequency sounds we can’t hear, which go up to 150 kHz.
“The next step is to faithfully playback the original sounds of the dolphins by using the dolphin speaker. Once the dolphin speaker is completed it will enable us to playback a variety of dolphin sounds to dolphins, which will help to broaden the research of their acoustic abilities,” said Tokyo University grad student Yuka Mishima.
The team hopes that noting dolphin responses to different collections of sounds will help them interpret meaning behind this mysterious language, and maybe someday lead to a conversation between the world’s two smartest creatures. If successful, however, the team from Tokyo is likely to get an earful, since Japan allows the hunting and slaughtering dolphins for their meat.
Top image via Thinkstock