Humans are Not Unique in Use of Personal Names

‘While numerous species use signals of one kind or another to communicate—vervet monkeys, for example, make alarm calls to warn about predators, and honey bees use a complicated dance to describe food location and quality—these sorts of messages are innate. Parrotlets, dolphins, and humans on the other hand, actually create their own signature handles—they’re not inborn. “We don’t find this much in other animals,” says Vincent Janik, a biology professor at St. Andrews University. “We have very few examples of learned signals invented for a purpose.”

That purpose, as far as researchers can tell, is to manage animals’ social relationships. Invented, name-like cries occur very rarely in the animal kingdom—yet, remarkably, the creatures that use them are incredibly different from each other. Then again, given that names, and the relationships they help to forge, are the foundation of an individual’s social world, it isn’t surprising that these three unrelated species independently developed them.

For those animals that use them, names play into pretty much every stage of relationship building, from mating to cooperation to higher levels of group dynamics. It starts with an introduction, usually an exchanging of personal labels. Parrotlets offer their signature call when meeting a new peer, dolphins broadcast their signature whistles when passing or joining another group at sea, [just as] humans—typically with a handshake or other gesture—introduce themselves with their respective monikers…’

Source: Nautilus