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Dolphins living off the coast of Wales ‘whistle at the highest frequencies in the world’

Dolphins living off the coast of Wales that have developed their own ‘Welsh accent’ whistle at frequencies higher than those recorded anywhere else in the world, scientists say

  • Dolphins that swim off the coast of Wales are said to have their own ‘Welsh accent’
  • The frequency of clicks used by dolphins is also faster than anywhere else in the world.
  • Experts made the discovery after studying groups of 240 dolphins in Cardigan Bay.
  • The study was carried out for the BBC nature series Wonders of the Celtic Deep


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Dolphins swimming off the coast of Wales, which have been found to have their own ‘Welsh accent’, speak faster than those anywhere else in the world, new research suggests.

Pod whistles around Cardigan Bay have a unique regional signature and were found to have a higher frequency than others around the world.

Experts from the BBC nature series Wonders of the Celtic Deep, which explores the west coast of Wales, made the discovery after a study of 240 bottlenose dolphins.

Dolphins swimming off the coast of Wales, which have been found to have their own 'Welsh accent', speak faster than those anywhere else in the world, research suggests (file image)

Dolphins swimming off the coast of Wales, which have been found to have their own ‘Welsh accent’, speak faster than those anywhere else in the world, research suggests (file image)

How do dolphins use ‘signature whistles’?

Characteristic whistles are sounds made by dolphins, which are used to identify different individuals.

Baby dolphins will eventually make their own individual whistle, but in the early stages of life, they use their mother’s.

In a previous study, researchers observed a mother dolphin at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California, who gave birth to a baby dolphin named Mira in 2014.

They recorded 80 hours of sounds from the mother, baby and other dolphins in the enclosure, during the two months before birth and two months after birth.

The recordings showed that the mother dolphin began to increase her characteristic hiss two weeks before birth, and continued to do so for two weeks after birth, before gradually decreasing.

In contrast, the other dolphins in the enclosure did not produce their own characteristic hiss at very high rates during this time.

The show’s narrator, Dame Sian Phillips, said: ‘Bottlenose dolphins are very sociable, the group is in constant communication.

“Each dolphin has its own distinctive whistle and Cardigan Bay dolphins can have their own dialect.

“Their whistles have a higher frequency than those recorded anywhere else in the world.”

Researchers had previously discovered that Cardigan Bay dolphins have different whistles than other pods found throughout the UK.

A 2007 study was conducted by marine scientist Ronan Hickey, from the University of Wales at Bangor, and experts from the Shannon Dolphin Foundation in Ireland.

They digitized and analyzed 1,882 whistles from 120 Irish Sea dolphins to find that the Welsh dolphins had their own accent.

Speaking at the time, the project leader, Dr. Simon Berrow, said: ‘We are trying to associate the types of hissing with different forms of behavior, such as foraging, resting, socializing and communicating with their young.

One was distinctive and exclusive to the Cardigan Bay dolphins.

“We are really building a dictionary of a wide range of sounds. There are hisses, clicks, barks, moans, and a gunshot sound that they could use to stun their prey.

The discovery followed studies showing that cows moo with regional accents and bird calls vary across the country.

In 2007, cheesemakers in the West Country said their cows had a distinct local accent, a claim backed by experts who said ‘dialectical variations’ would be influenced by peer groups.

Pod whistles around Cardigan Bay have a unique regional signature and were found to have a higher frequency than others around the world (stock image)

Pod whistles around Cardigan Bay have a unique regional signature and were found to have a higher frequency than others around the world (stock image)

Pod whistles around Cardigan Bay have a unique regional signature and were found to have a higher frequency than others around the world (stock image)

Welsh dolphins are a major draw for tourists on boat trips from New Quay and Aberaeron and from vantage points on the coast.

More than 25,000 tourists take boat tours each year to see its antics.

At the time of the discovery of the ‘Welsh accent’, Cardigan Marine Wildlife Center manager Steve Hartley said: ‘It makes sense that different groups of dolphins separated by great distances have different accents.

“Good to know that they have their own Welsh accent.

“Dolphins are very important to our tourism industry and I am sure that the fact that they whistle in Welsh will be an added attraction.

WHY SCIENTISTS THINK WHALES AND DOLPHINS LIGHT UP

Whales and dolphins have been seen ‘carrying’ or caring for their dead young several times.

These creatures may be in mourning or have not accepted or acknowledged that the offspring or partner has died.

Scientists do not yet know if aquatic mammals really recognize death and are looking to do more research on this topic.

In 2016, scientists found evidence that whales and dolphins conduct ‘watches’ for their dead.

They analyzed several cases in which mammals clung to the bodies of dead compatriots and watched over a dead companion.

At the time, they said the most likely explanation was the duel.

The study collected observations from 14 events.

They found that mothers often carried their dead young out of the water, often flanked by friends.

In many cases, the dead hatchlings decomposed, indicating that they had been held for a long time.

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