No trip to Panama City Beach is truly complete without a dolphin tour out to the waters off Shell Island to visit one of the world’s highest concentrations of bottlenose dolphin. These sleek marine mammals with their perpetual smiles are always a crowd-pleaser. There are many amazing things they can do, but it’s their ability to use sound that intrigues scientists and fascinates visitors.
Humans speak when air passes through our larynx and vibrates our vocal cords. The shape of our mouth and position of our tongue creates the words we recognize. Dolphins don’t have vocal cords. Though marine biologists aren’t sure exactly how dolphins create sound, they theorize that the sounds are most likely produced as air moves through their nasal passage.
What We Hear
Scientists using underwater microphones have recorded bottlenose dolphins producing clicks, whistles, grunts and even sounds similar to groaning and creaking doors! Though no one has broken the “dolphin code”, we do know that bottlenose dolphin can identify one another because of their signature whistle. Dolphin seem to call each other by name and it has been observed on numerous occasions that a mother dolphin continuously whistling to her calf several days after birth so they learn to identify her signature whistle. Signature whistles are developed by calves as young as one month old.
Sound as Radar
Dolphin not only use sound for communication, but they also use it for navigating and hunting underwater. Sound waves, especially those created by low frequency clicks, travel faster and farther through water. Bottlenose dolphin have the ability to produce broadband clicks from the melon area of their head that travel out through the ocean and “echo” back to them from objects, in a process called echolocation. The echoed soundwaves are received in the fat-filled cavities of the lower jaw. A message is then relayed to the brain interpreting the sound as a fish the dolphin is hunting or a rock they want to avoid.
Hearing it in Action
Though we may never understand exactly what the dolphins are saying to one another, there is nothing like hearing their excited squeaks and clicks in person. Let DOLPHIN EXPRESS be your guide to enjoying these fun-loving animals in their natural habitat. When you’re in Panama City Beach, be sure to give us a call, stop by Lighthouse Marina or use our convenient online feature to book your Panama City Beach dolphin tour with us!