Dolphins and whales have their own “Happy” song, according to scientists who have translated the animals’ high-pitched sounds as squeals of delight.
Researchers at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego originally thought the sounds were signals that food was present. But, when dolphins and beluga whales emitted the same squeals after a successful training mission, scientists interpreted the sounds as “whoops” of triumph, according to U.S. cetacean expert and author Dr. Sam Ridgway.
Ridgway has spent over 50 years studying and training cetaceans, and rewarding them with fish treats. After his wife suggested that the squeals reminded her of delighted children, Ridgway wondered if the sounds could be expressions of delight.
Ridgeway and his colleagues then analyzed past recordings of dolphins and whale experiments and found a connection between the squeals and the release of dopamine, the brain chemical associated with pleasure.
“We think we have demonstrated that (the victory squeal) has emotional content,” says Ridgway in an article in the current issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.
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