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Whistling dolphins wired for sound

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Boat-shy dolphins could soon be located via software that identifies what the species is by listening to the individual whistles the marine mammals make.

According to a new study by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), identifying different types of dolphins could help observers monitor any fall in the number of sightings of the mammal.

Traditionally, surveys are performed by monitoring dolphins for possible harm from fishing fleets by observing the animals from a boat.

However, as many dolphins spend a lot of time underwater – what with them being animals of the sea and all – visual sightings can be difficult to accurately measure; there is also the further complication for observers that some species are shy of boats.

The ASA said it has turned to acoustics in the hope of providing more accurate data on dolphin activity in heavily fished areas where the mammals are at greater risk of being harmed.

It found in tests that dolphins make a variety of sounds that include species-specific whistles made up of frequencies between two and 30 kilohertz, reports the New Scientist.

The marine-life research group trailed a microphone from a survey boat and then fed the sound they picked up from dolphins to an on-board computer.

It said that specially developed software was then able to identify eight types of dolphin with up to 80 per cent accuracy.

More from the ASA here. ®

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