Dolphins Use Taste To Identify One Another, Study Shows

Animals

| LAST UPDATE 06/08/2022

By Stanley Wickens
dolphins taste behavior discovery
skynesher via Getty Images

They say dolphins have a lot of traits similar to humans. After all, they're sociable, curious, and playful animals. Also, like humans, dolphins tend to live in groups where they interact with one another and make friends. However, researchers recently discovered that they use a very different method to identify one another.

It turns out dolphins can tell who is who by using their sense of taste to discern their friends' urine from others who aren't part of the family. The study, led by marine biologist Jason Bruck from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, originally intended to test whether dolphins use their signature whistles like humans use names. However, to achieve this, they needed to find an alternative way for dolphins recognize one another. 

dolphins behavior taste study
George Karbus Photography via Getty Images
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Bruck recalled scientists once observing dolphins purposefully swimming through each other's urine and decided to give the substance a try. "It was a shot in the dark," shared Bruck, who wrote the study that was published in the journal Science Advances. "And I was not expecting it to work, to be honest." They conducted a study that would test the dolphins' responses to each other's urine and unique whistles. And what they discovered was astonishing. The results of their research were the first evidence of an animal using its sense of taste to identify another member of its own species. These creatures showed at least two methods of identifying individuals, further proving that their social intelligence is complex - very similar to that of humans.

"This really deepens our understanding of how dolphins keep track of each other, which we know is really important to them," remarked Laela Sayigh, a marine biologist at the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, who also not involved in the study. According to her, the research "opens doors to other types of questions around what all they might be learning" using their sense of taste to detect each other's urine. It's no secret that the intelligence and behavior of dolphins have fascinated researchers for years, but there are still several questions that have yet to be answered about these magnificent creatures. But thanks to Jason Bruck's success, we've certainly taken a few steps forward. Be sure to stay tuned for more exciting discoveries!

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