A Night School

Dolphins and whales are popular performers in large aquariums still. Their surroundings may seem spacious to us, but of course they in no way compare to the ocean. Life in a dolphinarium must be pretty monotonous.

The training to do circus tricks for the public keeps them somewhat employed. That and the training so they can be handled for their medical checkups provides a little variety. With intelligent mammals like dolphins, who knows what they will be planning to do in their spare time. Continuing education perhaps?

The close-knit school of five dolphins at Planète Sauvage in France have taken the opportunity to learn a new language – they’ve been learning whale, according to Kremers et al who have published their findings in Frontiers in Comparative Psychology (1). They were caught running through the hump back whale vocabulary at night.

Dolphin-speak consist of whistles and bursts of sound, quite different from the mournful calls of the humpback. They picked up their elementary humpback from the fanfare broadcast prior to their circus performance each day. This fanfare was played to whip up the viewers adrenaline as they were arriving and taking their seats before each of the thrice daily performances.

The sounds were all very nautical, sea gulls squawking, dolphins whistling and 2 minutes of humpback calls – those long provocative whale wails crying for the wide open seas. They were eavesdropped on crying humpback between 1 and 3 A.M. when all good dolphins are supposed to be asleep.

We are left with two possibilities:
i)                           that they are looking forward to parole and then they could be gainfully employed as interpreters at dolphin–whale summits in the deep ocean,
ii)                         that they are talking in their sleep, dreaming of freedom and imagining meeting the important inhabitants of the broad oceans as they drift with the currents at will.

  1. http://www.frontiersin.org/comparative_psychology/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00386/full

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