The Beacon

Dolphins and Whales Squeal like Children When They’re Happy, Study Says

An Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis). A new study found that dolphins and whales “squeal with delight.” (Photo: Oceana)

As a child, you may remember squealing and screaming when you were excited about something. It turns out that humans aren’t the only species that gets noisy when they’re happy: New research shows that whales and dolphins “squeal with delight” to express glee, too.

In a new study published this month in The Journal of Experimental Biology, marine biologist and National Marine Mammal Foundation president Sam Ridgway and a team of scientists found that dolphins and beluga whales make “victory squeals,” or noises when they’re happy. 

Ridgway, who has been studying these cetaceans for 50 years, first noticed that the squeals came when they received a reward, like a tasty fish. He long-assumed the noises were a signal to other marine mammals that food was nearby. But after analyzing decades of recordings, the scientists found that these squeals lasted longer than the average timing of dopamine release—or the anticipation of a reward like fish or a special whistle sound. In other words, the team found that these noises were real expressions of happiness.

Other than being absurdly cute, these squeals may point to the much bigger theme of emotional capacity in marine mammals and the need to study cognitive capabilities in cetaceans further, Ridgway said in a press release.

Needless to say, if beluga whales and dolphins hadn’t captured your attention before, the thought of dolphins and whales squealing and giggling in happiness may just win you over.

Take a look below to hear a dolphin’s “victory squeal”:


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