Document Type

Internship Report

Publication Date

Fall 2015


The signature whistles of 10 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in a managed care population were compared by untrained human observers to judge their similarity. The signature whistles from two distinct family units, each with two parents and three offspring, were extracted and pairwise comparisons were made among all individuals in the study. Related individuals had more similar signature whistles than unrelated individuals. Exposure had a grater impact on signature whistle similarity than relationship. Offspring signature whistle contours were found to be more similar to their mother’s signature whistle contour than their father’s signature whistle contour. Offspring reared without their father in their first year of life had a higher mean rank score than offspring that were reared with their father. Female offspring had more similar signature whistles to their mother’s signature whistle than male offspring. Relatedness was shown to be a strong predictor in signature whistle similarity, especially among siblings. For the entire population this was shown to be true, with offspring raised with their siblings showing a higher mean similarity score than offspring not raised with their siblings. This proposes a new signature system in place for kin recognition utilizing audition and signature whistles in bottlenose dolphins and suggests there may be a genetic as well as learned component to calf signature whistle development.


Department: MBF

MPS Track: MMS

Location: Dolphin Plus

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