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Animal Speech More Complex Than Previously Thought

Science & Tech  (tags: animals, mongoose, speech, science, research, technology, scientists, discovery, investigation )

- 1836 days ago -
Some animals are more eloquent than previously thought and have a communication structure similar to the vowel and consonant system of humans, according to new research.

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Michael O (175)
Friday January 11, 2013, 9:13 pm
Studying the abbreviated call of the mongoose, researchers at the University of Zurich have found they are the first animals to communicate with sound units that are even smaller than syllables and yet still contain information about who is calling and why.

Usually, animals can only produce a limited number of distinguishable sounds and calls due to their anatomy. While whale and bird songs are a little more complex than most animal sounds — in that they are repeatedly combined with new arrangements — they don’t pattern themselves after human syllables with their combination of vowels and consonants.

Studying wild banded mongooses in Uganda, behavioural biologists discovered that the calls of the animals are structured and contain different information — a sound structure that has some similarities to the vowel and consonant system of human speech.

Banded mongooses live in the savannah regions of the Sahara. They are small predators that live in groups of around 20 and are related to the meerkat.

The scientists recorded calls of the mongoose and made acoustic analyses of them. The calls, which last between 50 and 150 milliseconds, could be compared to one "syllable," the researchers found.

But they also found that even one long "syllable" contained what might be called "segregated vocal signatures."

"The initial sound of the call provides information on the identity of the animal calling," said David Jansen, a member of the research team.

The second part was more tonal — similar to a vowel — and indicated the caller's activity at the time.

The researchers, lead by biologist Marta Manser, say they believe other animals are capable of having more intricate call structures too.

"So-called simple animal sound expressions might be far more complex than was previously thought possible," concluded the report published in BMC Biology journal.


Teresa W (782)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 3:42 am
Absolutely amazing!

Teresa W (782)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 3:43 am
Perhaps we'll learn to talk to animals some day. (By the way, I was once passing by a herd of sheep and, just for fun, I started bleating and the sheep followed me. Then I stopped bleating and went on.)

Past Member (0)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 6:45 am
noted, thanks

Gloria picchetti (304)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 7:05 am
I long for the day G-d lets me leave this world forever to bring me to Paradise with my pets. I want them to talk to me in a language we all understand.

donnaa D (14)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 7:07 am
we tend too think we are the only ones able to have structured meanings, so i'm glad that this has been proved a myth.

Past Member (0)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 7:14 am
Thanks ,good to know ,

Gillian M (218)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 8:23 am
Thanks Michael although I am not surprised. We already know that the cetaceans have a complex language and that includes their own names. Primates also talk vocally and bosy language plays a part.

If we look at tribes who have been around for some several thousand years, we find that they have a much richer language than we do including whistles and clicking sounds. This gives them the ability to create a better and clearer language than we do.

James Travers (6)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 8:30 am
ALL animal's comunication is more complex than scientists know, anyone who has an animal friend knows this. (I don't mean a pet, I mean an animal friend) Sometimes scientists can't see the forest for the trees.

Don't get me wrong, I love and respect science but too often scientists contrive elaborate experiments when what they really need to do is just observe; which is one of the things I really appreciate about those like Jane Goodall.

Kay M (347)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 9:32 am

Kerrie G (118)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 11:40 am
Noted, thanks.

Kathleen R (138)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 12:49 pm
read & noted

janet f (29)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 1:26 pm
Humans are so egotistical we think no other species has the ability to communicate and if they do, it must be on a primitive level. Perhaps our unwillingness to give animals any credit for their intelligence stems from our desire to continue using and abusing them for our own ugly needs.

Holly Lawrence (430)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 2:24 pm
I've always believed this to be true!

M B (62)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 2:59 pm
Of course they can talk, it's worth studying.

Natalie V (27)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 3:11 pm

Muriel Servaege (53)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 3:44 pm
This is interesting, but not surprising. Man has always had a tendency to underestimate the language of animals, In fact, he has always taught animals to understand his language but has never made an effort to understand theirs. Can I conclude that animals are more intelligent than man?

Mitchell D (104)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 5:29 pm
Even more reason to respect animal species other than humans!

Gloria H (88)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 6:09 pm
being kept awake by a mockingbird night after night, (it kept changing it's song) Then it was joined by another further down the street, and nights later a THIRD bird further away. Each would do a similar song, then a variation...they were definately saying something to each other in bird talk. Very woo-woo!
Just wish they didn't do it in the wee hours of the night. Maybe they didn't know a human was eavesdropping.

Julie F (68)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 8:30 pm
I love to read about this topic.

Devon Leonard (54)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 12:03 am
Science needs proof for what is well known to the heart

Ruth C (87)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 4:00 am
Soon the Almighty will bring peace to all the world!

Jaime A (51)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 5:58 am
Noted, amazing.!!

Colleen Prinssen (14)
Monday January 14, 2013, 5:42 am
but will they ever, talk about the weather, or gossop?

Colleen Prinssen (14)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 4:42 pm
if any of you come back to this. I urge you to check out "nature of nature's art" it is an excelent sci-fi and at times martial arts webcomic with talking animals who try to create their own version of "mankind's society"

Sergio P (65)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 9:02 am
Thanks, shared and noted

Phillipa W (199)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 12:47 am
thanks. I'm not entirely shocked to see that it goes beyond intonation and conveying emotions and specific messages.
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