Their names, however, are whistle patterns. New Scientist reports:
Stephanie King of the University of St Andrews, UK, and colleagues monitored 179 pairs of wild bottlenose dolphins off the Florida coast between 1988 and 2004. Of these, 10 were seen copying each other’s signature whistles, which the dolphins make to identify themselves to each other.
The behavior has never been documented before, and was only seen in pairs composed of a mother and her calf or adults who would normally move around and hunt together.
The copied whistles changed frequency in the same way as real signature whistles, but either started from a higher frequency or didn’t last as long, suggesting Dave was not merely imitating Alan.