Over the years, scientists have discovered how intelligent dolphins really are. We know these playful and social mammals whistle to say hello and even call each other by name, but will they ever communicate with us?

Well, they just might thanks to work conducted by marine biologist, Denis Herzing.

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After years of studying and interacting with wild Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas, Herzing developed the Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT) device, which she introduced during a recent TED talk (video below).

The CHAT device is an acoustic, underwater and wearable prototype computer that divers can use to interpret certain dolphin noises in real time. The device works by sending out whistles into the water which match dolphin noises associated with certain toys. The dolphins hear this and either go for the toy or mimic it. If the dolphin noise matches a word, the computer locates which dolphin made the noise and translates what it means to the diver though bone conduction.

 

Herzing hopes this new device will help translate and broadcast dolphin sounds underwater, opening an instant form of communication between human diver and wild dolphin. Although the dolphins are fully capable of this type of communication, there are signs they may not want to communicate with us in this fashion.

Justin Gregg, co-editor of the academic journal Aquatic Mammals, suggests there is a potential for a lack of communication in Herzing’s study due to the dolphins’ difference in brain development and social attitude.

As we all know, we as humans love to share our inner thoughts with the world, which has benefited the development of our species and intelligence, but dolphins have developed socially without this need to share. So perhaps we are approaching dolphin communication from a far too narrow anthropocentric angle and are overlooking the fact that dolphins are just as intelligent as us but in a different way.

Looking at dolphin communication in a different perspective may be easier said than done, but then again, maybe dolphins don’t want to communicate with us because of the way we treat them.

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