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Whales And Dolphins Squeal With Pleasure

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.”

dolphins

Dolphins/Image: CZS

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.”

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.
  • Carmen gonzales

    It amazes me, Mr. Phoenix, how researchers can deem with probable certainty what some animal’s behavior means. For all we know, the animals could be saying,”suckers, they fed us again.” Interesting article, it made me think.

    • Will Phoenix

      Yeah, I don’t know the details but they manage somehow. I mean I can understand when animals talk to ME but that’s because I’ve been slapped by so many girls it gave me that special power. (JK)