Dolphins Can Recognize Each Other By The Taste Of Their Urine

Dolphins Can Recognize Each Other By The Taste Of Their Urine

The taste of urine and signature whistles help the mammals identify their friends at a distance.

Nature is often so fascinating and yet so strange. New research suggests that dolphins have a unique way of identifying each other... by tasting their pee! According to the study published in the journal Science Advances, bottlenose dolphins recognize their friends at a distance through the taste of urine and signature whistles. Also, they show interest in familiar urine collected from animals they know over strangers.



“Dolphins explored urine samples for longer if they came from known animals or when they were presented together with the dolphin’s unique and distinctive signature whistle, an acoustic identifier that works like a name,” professor Vincent Janik, director of the Scottish Oceans Institute and lead author of the study, told The Guardian. Janik added, “We still know very little about how the sense of taste works in dolphins. Other studies have shown that they lost a lot of the common tastes that we find in other mammals such as sour, sweet, umami or bitter. But they have unusual sensory cells on their tongue that are probably involved in this detection of individual tastes of other animals.”



The dolphins who were part of the study were from the Dolphin Quest resorts in Hawaii and Bermuda, where their “day job” is swimming with tourists. These animals reacted to urine samples from both their peers and unfamiliar animals. "Dolphins keep their mouths open and sample urine longer from familiar individuals than unfamiliar ones," first author Jason Bruck of the Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas reiterated in an email to AFP. "This is important because dolphins are the first vertebrate ever shown to have social recognition through taste alone."



Dolphins do not have a sense of smell and have to rely on their other senses instead. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, when the sea mammals pooped or peed, others around would swim through the excretions with their mouths open to quite literally get a big taste of their friend. “In other animals, it’s very difficult to separate the sense of smell from the sense of taste. So this is a really exciting opportunity to just study how taste works in this really unique way,” Bruck told the network. Researchers also discovered that dolphins seemed to be able to connect whistles with the urine samples. The animals would respond longer when the whistles from a familiar dolphin matched their urine sample. "That means that dolphins have a representational understanding of signature whistles, which is a big deal," Bruck said. How fascinating!


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