Scientists have been studying dolphins to learn more about how these intelligent sea animals communicate. Most scientists believe that the bottle-nosed dolphin offers the best possibility for communicating with man. They think that a bottle-nosed dolphin can be taught to make sounds understandable to man.
In recent research with a male dolphin, scientists noticed that the dolphin stopped eating and moving about. After three days they became worried for fear that the dolphin would die. When two of the scientists began to pet and stroke the dolphin, he suddenly began to whistle. The scientists decided that the dolphin was lonesome, that he needed a companion, a friend, and that the sounds made by the dolphin were cries for help.
To help gain more information in their research, the scientists put microphones in and above the male dolphin's pen. Besides whistles, the animal also made clicking sounds. Soon, other dolphins began to appear in the sea near the captive dolphin's pen. Among the newcomers, one small female dolphin seemed especially interested in the captive male.
The female dolphin soon began to help the male by encouraging him to eat. Within a short time his sad mood improved and he became happy and active. Because of this change, scientists concluded that the two dolphins had talked to each other in their own language. They were encouraged to believe that it was possible to teach dolphins to imitate human sounds.
Two scientists began to spend several hours every day playing with the dolphins, talking to them, and listening to "dolphin talk" on the microphones. After a time, the dolphins learned to play a number of games but they did not seem to imitate human sounds. They still communicated with whistles and clicks.
One day, however, one of the scientists decided to reduce the speed of the audiotapes of the "dolphin talk". To his surprise, he discovered that the whistles and clicks, at a slow speed, sounded more like human sounds. The animals had been imitating the words of the scientists all along, but at such a high pitch that no one could recognize the words. Slowing down the speed of the audiotapes had lowered the pitch into the range of human sounds.
Scientists continue to study dolphins in the hope of learning even more about them and how to teach them to communicate better with humans.