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And my name isn't Flipper...

WASHINGTON - Researchers eavesdropping on dolphins have found that the mammals quickly learn and repeat intricate signals from their friends, a signaling pattern that experts believe is similar to what happened when ancient human beings first began organized speech.

Analysis of more than 1,700 whistle signals exchanged between bottlenose dolphins swimming along the Moray Firth coast of Scotland showed that the animals routinely responded to each other with matching signals, often echoing identical whistles within seconds of each other. The mammals may use these signature whistles as a way of specifically addressing other individual dolphins.

It suggests the dolphins are capable of "vocal learning," a prerequisite for evolving a spoken language, according to researcher Vincent M. Janik. A report on his study appeared Friday in the journal Science.

Caffeine free from the get-go

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - Genetic engineering promises to produce a decaffeinated coffee that doesn't have all the flavor drained out of it. Coffee connoisseurs have long complained that the flavor of today's decaf often suffers because of the caffeine-extraction process.

Now, Alan Crozier, a professor of plant products and human nutrition at the University of Glasgow, and colleagues in Japan have identified a gene in the coffee plant that is key to the synthesis of caffeine. Announcing results of their research in the journal Nature, the scientists revealed that they hope eventually to produce a genetically engineered coffee plant in which the gene has been shut down.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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