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Photo taken on Dolphin and You tour.

The Fascinating Way Dolphins Communicate

Many of us may already know that dolphins are an incredibly smart and complex species. In Hawaii, there are 3 different types of dolphins that you can spot off the coast of Oahu: spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and spotted dolphins. These dolphins swim and live in groups known as “pods” that can range anywhere from 2 to 30 dolphins. Dolphins are known for their empathy, problem-solving skills, and intelligence. So how do these incredible creatures communicate?

Dolphins’ Use Names!

Dolphins use different combinations of clicks and whistles to communicate messages to their pod members. Dolphins each have an individual and unique signature whistle that can identify them, extremely similar to how humans use names. Beyond identification, these sounds are used to hunt prey, fight, and attract a mate. Above water, dolphins make these sounds through their blowhole, while underwater dolphins produce noises through their three internal air sacs located beneath their blowhole.

Image taken on Dolphins and You Tour

Echolocation, or the location of objects by reflected sound, may be the most well-known form of dolphin communication. Echolocation is used by dolphins to emit a sound wave that bounces off the objects or creatures around them. The returning sound is processed by dolphins between their jaws and inner ear and can help the dolphins determine an object’s size, shape, and even determine the texture of an object! These sound waves help dolphins hunt and communicate with each other. While dolphins mostly use their jaw and inner ear to hear underwater, they are known to use their smaller ear openings to hear above water. Dolphins can actually hear seven times better than humans can!

Dolphins love to slap while they swim.

It is not unusual to see a dolphin jump into the air or slap the water with its tail. These are both ways dolphins can psychically communicate with the rest of their pod! The message dolphins are sending depends on the different patterns and the strength of their slaps. These messages can communicate danger, hunger, or can even just be a way for dolphins to play! Dolphins are also known to exchange bumps when they are trying to communicate with one another. When two male dolphins bump into each other, it is usually a sign of aggression between the two dolphins. This can be because a male dolphin is trying to protect its young or is defending its mate. Dolphins will also occasionally bump into each other to show affection!

Dolphins Jump for Joy!

Many of us have probably seen videos of dolphins jumping out of the water, while some of us may have even been lucky enough to witness the phenomenon in person. Believe it or not, these jumps are about more than showing off for the dolphins (even though that is a large part of it). Jumping can also be an effective way for dolphins to look out for predators and conserve energy. It may sound unusual that jumping would be a method of conserving energy, but sailing through the air requires less effort from the dolphins than swimming through the water. For one reason above all others, dolphins love to jump for one reason: fun!

How can I see dolphins communicating in person?

To see these incredible creatures communicate in person, join our Dolphins and You tour located in Hawaii! This tour takes you to the west side of Oahu to view the dolphins pods that hang out off the coast of Hawaii. We are always respectful of the delicate ecosystems of Hawaii and work to ensure that our customers have an amazing time on our tours while keeping our dolphin friends safe.

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