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Bottlenose dolphins communicate mainly by means of sounds and are almost always constantly vocal. These sounds includes high-pitched whistles or squeals and short, pulse-type or squawks eminating from their blowholes, with an average of 300 sounds per pulse. But they also use breaching (jumping and falling back into the water with a loud splash) and pectoral fin (or flipper) and tail (or fluke) slaps (hitting the flipper or fluke on the water surface). Body posturing and jaw popping also have a role in communication.

Bottlenose dolphins identify themselves with a signature whistle. A mother dolphin may whistle to her calf almost continuously for several days after giving birth. This acoustic imprinting helps the calf learn to identify its mother. Dolphins regulate their sounds by shunting air throughout the air sacs beneath the blowhole. Tissue structures in this area slap together (much like a trumpet player's lips) to produce the clicks. These sounds often extend into the ultrasound region.

Dolphins can get specific information about a target by altering the rate and frequency of the clicks they produce. Although the clicks are definitely used in echolocation, the other sounds seem to be involved in certain forms of limited communication. Both whistles and burst-pulse sounds often fall below 20 kHz. Burst - pulse sounds seem to be related to a dolphin's emotional state. For example, those sounds often associated with aggression have a "squawking" or "barking" quality. Dolphins might produce "squeaking" tones when engaging in playful activities. "Chirping" sounds can sometimes be heard during sexual interaction.


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