Can dolphins really talk to people like on SEA Quest?
I assume you've seen the series premiere episode? As far as I know,
the technology isn't yet available to translate dolphin signals (which are often
NOT in the audible range of human hearing) to English... This would require
already KNOWING their language structure, or having a computer which could make
the analogies between the signals and the words that we cannot. However, it is
somewhat possible to communicate to trained dolphins by teaching them a sign
language (with real signs) which correspond to certain concepts. We can tell
them what we want by showing them the signs appropriate to the message, and they
can tell us what they want by pointing to symbols on a board displaying the signs
they know and understand. So far, most of the messages have been less on the order
of the wisdom of the ages, and more geared toward the general attitude of "Give
us some more free food."
Dolphins have the ability to make all sorts of sounds, many of which
I'm sure you've heard on "Sea Quest", however, we don't know for sure if they are
trying to "talk" to us, and if they are, we can't as yet understand their language
any better than we do the bark of a dog. For a little more information on how we
communicate with both dolphins and dogs, please see the archive of
biology questions and answers.
Tom F Ihde
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Update: June 2012