According to new research recently published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, whales and dolphins simply squeal with pleasure. The squeals, previously associated by some scientists with only certain specific communicative messages have been found to be little more than “cries of delight.”
Research has previously shown that whales and dolphins literally squeal with pleasure. Some scientists have claimed the squeals expressed emotion. Since the squeals were at first emitted by the mammals when they were offered fish treats, researchers thought said squeals were a way of announcing “the presence of food.”
The American scientists knew that dolphins and whales were known to squeal any time they heard a buzzer or a whistle associated with an edible reward. The revelation came, however, once the beluga whales and dolphins had been trained to turn off a sound following a deep dive. It was then that they would announce “a successful mission” by making those same squeals.
Dr Sam Ridgway, a US cetacean expert, author and president of the US National Marine Mammal Foundation, equate the squeal to a whoop of triumph made by a human. He stated: “The (squealing) behavior had transferred over to another stimulus that wasn’t food.”
Ridgway and a team of researchers analyzed decades’ worth of recordings of experiments involving both beluga whales and dolphins in order to investigate. The goal was to see if “the delay prior to a squeal was spoken synced with a release of dopamine (a chemical in the brain that stimulates various feelings of pleasure.
The release of dopamine requires only 100 milliseconds therefore if the delay between the promise of a reward and a squeal was longer than that specific amount of time then a connection would be suggested. In beluga whales the delay was 250 milliseconds. In dolphins it was 151 milliseconds. Ridgway concluded: “We think we have demonstrated that it (the victory squeal) has emotional content.”