Dolphins Use the Taste of Their Urine to Recognize Each Other

A new study shows that dolphins can recognize each other by the taste of their urine. Yes, you read that correctly.

Dolphins are universally recognized as being one of the smartest animals in the world so it comes as no surprise that they have a unique way to be able to identify friends and family. Researchers at the University of St. Andrews have discovered that the mammal’s unique sense of taste allows dolphins to tell between their peers through their urine and other excretions.

You’re probably wondering how they were able to figure out this discovery. Professor Vincent Janik, the director of the Scottish Oceans Institute, and his colleagues Jason Bruck and Sam Walmsley tested how dolphins reacted to urine samples from different individuals.

The sea creatures were more curious about the urine from the animals they were familiar with versus the ones that they didn’t know.

“Dolphins explored urine samples for longer if they came from known animals or when they were presented together with the dolphin’s unique and distinctive signature whistle, an acoustic identifier that works like a name,” Janik said.

The dolphins in the experiment were from the Dolphin Quest resorts in Hawaii and Bermuda. These bright animals were able to be trained to give urine samples when needed, which allowed the scientists to create a collection to present known and novel tastes to dolphins. Researchers now believe that dolphins may have a heightened experience of taste compared to other mammals.

Janik added: “We still know very little about how the sense of taste works in dolphins. Other studies have shown that they lost a lot of the common tastes that we find in other mammals such as sour, sweet, umami or bitter. But they have unusual sensory cells on their tongue that are probably involved in this detection of individual tastes of other animals.”