Common Dolphins

Common Dolphins (Photo by DRA)

Dolphins have a complex and intricate visual, acoustic and chemical communication system.  They are particularly reliant on their acoustic communication faculty to effectively and efficiently hunt, navigate, maintain contact between group members and advertise individual identity and activity.

Most species of dolphins produce a large variety of acoustic signals that are generally categorised as whistles, clicks and broad band signals.  Little is know about the specific functions and ecological significance of these complex sounds produced by dolphins.

This study will examine the types of acoustic emissions produced by coastal dolphins and investigate the functions of these sounds.  Innovative and technologically advanced equipment will be developed to obtain recordings of concurrent underwater and directional sound recordings.  This study involves an international team of leading researchers. We believe that the development and use of this equipment will drastically improve the techniques used to record dolphin behaviour and acoustics which have previously been very limiting.

Findings from this study will advance the understanding of ecological requirements of these highly social marine mammals that rely on their acoustic communication to survive.

Listen to Dolphins

Bottlenose dolphin chasing fish  chasing fish1

Bottlenose dolphin whistling contact callsa

Australian Humpback Dolphin & Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin Acoustic Communication

Little is known about the acoustic communication systems of the Australian humpback dolphin. This project will provide insight into the acoustic communication systems of these vulnerable animals. It’ll examine the vocal repertoire of humpback dolphins in Moreton Bay, how variable acoustic emissions are during different behavioural contexts, variations between social groups and how different soundscapes may influence their communication. These results will be compared with the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins which live sympatrically with humpback dolphins. This project is currently in the early stages with opportunistic sound recordings being made during our Moreton Bay Dolphin Research Expeditions with our Eco-Volunteer teams.

Dolphin Vocal Development Project

Dolphins live in an acoustic world.  They rely on acoustic signals to transmit essential information between individuals such as identity and activity, in addition to navigation and prey discrimination.  When within close range, visual and tactile communication also becomes an essential method of signal transmission.  Acoustic and tactile communication are particularly vital between closely bonded individuals such as mothers and their calves in order to maintain contact, initiate reunions and transmit information regarding activity.  During the six months of age, the calf learn how to effectively communicate.  However, very little is known about the acquisition, development or function of vocalizations and communicative signals of dolphins.

This project will:

– Examine if the production of vocalizations and social interactions of the birthing female varies before, during and after a birthing event

–  Examine the ontogeny of vocal behaviour in a newborn bottlenose dolphin over the first six months of life

–  Investigate the role of other adult females and males that are within vocal contact of the newborn calf

Few studies have focused on the vocal acquisition of newborn calves for the first six months after birth; an important time in the calf’s vocal development.  Given that acoustic communication is a vital component to the ecology of bottlenose dolphins, it is crucial to obtain an understanding of how vocalizations develop and their function.  This research project will advance the understanding of not only the acquisition of vocalizations of bottlenose dolphins, but also the function of vocal production.




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