Communication among animals should use signals that are most efficient in their particular habitat. Here, we report data from 3 populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in Japan that produce whistles transmitted efficiently through environmental ambient noise. We compared the characteristics of the ambient noise in the dolphins' habitats and the whistles produced. In habitats with less ambient noise, dolphins produced whistles at varying frequencies with greater modulations; when ambient noise was greater, dolphins produced whistles of lower frequencies with fewer frequency modulations. Examination of our results suggests that communication signals are adaptive and are selected to avoid the masking of signals and the attenuation of higher-frequency signals. Thus, ambient noise may drive the variation in whistles of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin populations.
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