Links for Keyword: Animal Communication

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By Darren Incorvaia Songbirds get a lot of love for their dulcet tones, but drummers may start to steal some of that spotlight. Woodpeckers, which don’t sing but do drum on trees, have brain regions that are similar to those of songbirds, researchers report September 20 in PLOS Biology. The finding is surprising because songbirds use these regions to learn their songs at an early age, yet it’s not clear if woodpeckers learn their drum beats (SN: 9/16/21). Whether woodpeckers do or not, the result suggests a shared evolutionary origin for both singing and drumming. The ability to learn vocalizations by listening to them, just like humans do when learning to speak, is a rare trait in the animal kingdom. Vocal learners, such as songbirds, hummingbirds and parrots, have independently evolved certain clusters of nerve cells called nuclei in their forebrains that control the ability. Animals that don’t learn vocally are thought to lack these brain features. While it’s commonly assumed that other birds don’t have these nuclei, “there’s thousands of birds in the world,” says Matthew Fuxjager, a biologist at Brown University in Providence, R.I. “While we say these brain regions only exist in these small groups of species, nobody’s really looked in a lot of these other taxa.” Fuxjager and his colleagues examined the noggins of several birds that don’t learn vocally to check if they really did lack these brain nuclei. Using molecular probes, the team checked the bird brains for activity of a gene called parvalbumin, a known marker of the vocal learning nuclei. Many of the birds, including penguins and flamingos, came up short, but there was one exception — male and female woodpeckers, which had three spots in their brains with high parvalbumin activity. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 28486 - Posted: 09.21.2022

By Emily Anthes My cat is a bona fide chatterbox. Momo will meow when she is hungry and when she is full, when she wants to be picked up and when she wants to be put down, when I leave the room or when I enter it, or sometimes for what appears to be no real reason at all. But because she is a cat, she is also uncooperative. So the moment I downloaded MeowTalk Cat Translator, a mobile app that promised to convert Momo’s meows into plain English, she clammed right up. For two days I tried, and failed, to solicit a sound. On Day 3, out of desperation, I decided to pick her up while she was wolfing down her dinner, an interruption guaranteed to elicit a howl of protest. Right on cue, Momo wailed. The app processed the sound, then played an advertisement for Sara Lee, then rendered a translation: “I’m happy!” I was dubious. But MeowTalk provided a more plausible translation about a week later, when I returned from a four-day trip. Upon seeing me, Momo meowed and then purred. “Nice to see you,” the app translated. Then: “Let me rest.” (The ads disappeared after I upgraded to a premium account.) The urge to converse with animals is age-old, long predating the time when smartphones became our best friends. Scientists have taught sign language to great apes, chatted with grey parrots and even tried to teach English to bottlenose dolphins. Pets — with which we share our homes but not a common language — are particularly tempting targets. My TikTok feed brims with videos of Bunny, a sheepadoodle who has learned to press sound buttons that play prerecorded phrases like “outside,” “scritches” and “love you.” MeowTalk is the product of a growing interest in enlisting additional intelligences — machine-learning algorithms — to decode animal communication. The idea is not as far-fetched as it may seem. For example, machine-learning systems, which are able to extract patterns from large data sets, can distinguish between the squeaks that rodents make when they are happy and those that they emit when they are in distress. Applying the same advances to our creature companions has obvious appeal. “We’re trying to understand what cats are saying and give them a voice” Javier Sanchez, a founder of MeowTalk, said. “We want to use this to help people build better and stronger relationships with their cats,” he added. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 28458 - Posted: 08.31.2022

By Carl Zimmer One of the most remarkable things about our species is how fast human culture can change. New words can spread from continent to continent, while technologies such as cellphones and drones change the way people live around the world. It turns out that humpback whales have their own long-range, high-speed cultural evolution, and they don’t need the internet or satellites to keep it running. In a study published on Tuesday, scientists found that humpback songs easily spread from one population to another across the Pacific Ocean. It can take just a couple of years for a song to move several thousand miles. Ellen Garland, a marine biologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and an author of the study, said she was shocked to find whales in Australia passing their songs to others in French Polynesia, which in turn gave songs to whales in Ecuador. “Half the globe is now vocally connected for whales,” she said. “And that’s insane.” It’s even possible that the songs travel around the entire Southern Hemisphere. Preliminary studies by other scientists are revealing whales in the Atlantic Ocean picking up songs from whales the eastern Pacific. Each population of humpback whales spends the winter in the same breeding grounds. The males there sing loud underwater songs that can last up to half an hour. Males in the same breeding ground sing a nearly identical tune. And from one year to the next, the population’s song gradually evolves into a new melody. Dr. Garland and other researchers have uncovered a complex, language-like structure in these songs. The whales combine short sounds, which scientists call units, into phrases. They then combine the phrases into themes. And each song is made of several themes. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 28456 - Posted: 08.31.2022

By Anna Gibbs Cradled inside the hushed world of the womb, fetuses might be preparing to come out howling. In the same way newborn humans can cry as soon as they’re born, common marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus) produce contact calls to seek attention from their caregivers. Those vocalizations are not improv, researchers report in a preprint posted April 14 at bioRxiv. Ultrasound imaging of marmoset fetuses reveals that their mouths are already mimicking the distinctive pattern of movements used to emit their first calls, long before the production of sound. Early behaviors in infants are commonly described as “innate” or “hard-wired,” but a team at Princeton University wondered how exactly those behaviors develop. How does a baby know how to cry as soon as it’s born? The secret may lie in what’s happening before birth. “People tend to ignore the fetal period,” says Darshana Narayanan, a behavioral neuroscientist who did the research while at Princeton University. “They just think that it’s like the baby’s just vegetating and waiting to be born…. [But] that’s where many things begin.” Research shows, for instance, that chicks inside their eggs are already learning to identify their species’ call (SN: 9/16/21). “So much is developing so much earlier in development than we previously thought,” says developmental psychobiologist Samantha Carouso-Peck, executive director of Grassland Bird Trust in Fort Edward, N.Y., who was not involved in the research. But, she says, “we really haven’t looked much at all at the production side of this. Most of what we know is the auditory side.” Carouso-Peck studies vocal learning in songbirds and how it applies to how humans acquire language. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 28325 - Posted: 05.11.2022

Dolphins are known to use physical contact like petting and rubbing to bond with their closest allies. But for more distant contacts, male dolphins bond by trading whistles instead. KELSEY SNELL, HOST: You know those friends who live far away, but you still stay in touch? You can't really hug, so you call or text them instead. Well, dolphins do something sort of similar. AILSA CHANG, HOST: That, my friends, is whistling. A new study found that the male bottlenose dolphins in Western Australia whistle to the other male dolphins they don't have strong bonds with. SNELL: University of Bristol marine biologist Emma Chereskin is the lead author of the study. She explains that male bottlenose dolphins have an alliance structure. They have their closest circle where the bonds are strong. EMMA CHERESKIN: They often use physical touch, so rubbing their fins together, swimming side by side. CHANG: Then there is another circle where the bonds are weaker and they don't use as much physical touch, but they do whistle to identify themselves and to keep alliances intact. In other words, they bond at a distance. Sound familiar? SNELL: That was a whistle exchange between three dolphins. The researchers gave them names - Kooks (ph), Spirit and Guppy. CHERESKIN: They're saying, hi, I'm Kooks. I'm right here. And then Spirit would reply, hi, I'm Spirit. I'm also right here. And then Guppy gets in on it towards the end. He's saying, hi, I'm Guppy. I'm also here. CHANG: The study tests the social bonding hypothesis of Robin Dunbar. He proposed that animal vocalizations evolved as a form of vocal grooming to replace physical grooming. Karl Berg from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley says this study advances that hypothesis. KARL BERG: These dolphin groups can be in really large groups in the dark ocean where visual communication isn't going to be possible. It makes sense that this vocal communication system is very important to them. © 2022 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 28262 - Posted: 04.02.2022

Megan Lim Any parents out there will be familiar with the unique sort of misery that results when your kid has a new favorite song. They ask to hear it over and over, without regard for the rest of us. Well, it turns out that song sparrows might be better than children (and many adults, for that matter) when it comes to curating their playlists. Male sparrows, which attract females by singing, avoid tormenting their listeners with the same old tune. Instead they woo potential mates with a selection of 6 to 12 different songs. The song sparrow medley It might be hard to tell, but that audio clip contains three distinctive sparrow songs, each containing a unique signature of trills and notes. Even more impressive than the execution, though, is the way sparrows string their songs together. William Searcy, an ornithologist at the University of Miami, recently published a study in The Royal Society that analyzed patterns of song sparrow serenades. He said it would be easy for the birds to sing the first song, then the second, then the third and fourth. "But that's not what song sparrows are doing. They're not going through in a set order. They're varying the order from cycle to cycle, and that's more complicated," he said. In other words, rather than sing the same playlist every time, they hit shuffle. "What we're arguing is what they do is keep in memory the whole past cycle so they know what to sing next," Searcy said. The researchers are not sure why male sparrows shuffle their songs. But past work has shown that females prefer hearing a wider range of tunes, so maybe a new setlist keeps females interested. © 2022 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases; Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex; Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 28181 - Posted: 02.02.2022

Nicola Davis They have fluffy ears, a penetrating stare and a penchant for monogamy. But it turns out that indris – a large, critically endangered species of lemur – have an even more fascinating trait: an unexpected sense of rhythm. Indri indri are known for their distinctive singing, a sound not unlike a set of bagpipes being stepped on. The creatures often strike up a song with members of their family either in duets or choruses, featuring sounds from roars to wails. Now scientists say they have analysed the songs of 39 indris living in the rainforest of Madagascar, revealing that – like humans – the creatures employ what are known as categorical rhythms. These rhythms are essentially distinctive and predictable patterns of intervals between the onset of notes. For example in a 1:1 rhythm, all the intervals are of equal length, while a 1:2 rhythm has some twice as long as those before or after – like the opening bars of We Will Rock You by Queen. “They are quite predictable [patterns], because the next note is going to come either one unit or two whole units after the previous note,” said Dr Andrea Ravignani, co-author of the research from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. While the 1:1 rhythms have previously been identified in certain songbirds, the team say their results are the first time categorical rhythms have been identified in a non-human mammal. “The evidence is even stronger than in birds,” said Ravignani. © 2021 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 28050 - Posted: 10.27.2021

ByRachel Fritts Across North America, hundreds of bird species waste time and energy raising chicks that aren’t their own. They’re the victims of a “brood parasite” called the cowbird, which adds its own egg to their clutch, tricking another species into raising its offspring. One target, the yellow warbler, has a special call to warn egg-warming females when cowbirds are casing the area. Now, researchers have found the females act on that warning 1 day later—suggesting their long-term memories might be much better than thought. “It’s a very sophisticated and subtle behavioral response,” says Erick Greene, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Montana, Missoula, who was not involved in the study. “Am I surprised? I guess I’m more in awe. It’s pretty dang cool.” Birds have been dazzling scientists with their intellects for decades. Western scrub jays, for instance, can remember where they’ve stored food for the winter—and can even keep track of when it will spoil. There’s evidence that other birds might have a similarly impressive ability to remember certain meaningful calls. “Animals are smart in the context in which they need to be smart,” says Mark Hauber, an animal behavior researcher at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin, who co-authored the new study. He wanted to see whether yellow warblers had the capacity to remember their own important warning call known as a seet. Shelby Lawson The birds make the staccato sound of this call only when a cowbird is near. When yellow warbler females hear it, they go back to their nests and sit tight. (It could just as well be called a “seat” call.) But it’s been unclear whether they still remember the warning in the morning. © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 28039 - Posted: 10.16.2021

Linda Geddes Your dog might follow commands such as “sit”, or become uncontrollably excited at the mention of the word “walkies”, but when it comes to remembering the names of toys and other everyday items, most seem pretty absent-minded. Now a study of six “genius dogs” has advanced our understanding of dogs’ memories, suggesting some of them possess a remarkable grasp of the human language. Hungarian researchers spent more than two years scouring the globe for dogs who could recognise the names of their various toys. Although most can learn commands to some degree, learning the names of items appears to be a very different task, with most dogs unable to master this skill. Max (Hungary), Gaia (Brazil), Nalani (Netherlands), Squall (US), Whisky (Norway), and Rico (Spain) made the cut after proving they knew the names of more than 28 toys, with some knowing more than 100. They were then enlisted to take part in a series of livestreamed experiments known as the Genius Dog Challenge. “These gifted dogs can learn new names of toys in a remarkable speed,” said Dr Claudia Fugazza at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, who led the research team. “In our previous study we found that they could learn a new toy name after hearing it only four times. But, with such short exposure, they did not form a long-term memory of it.” To further push the dogs’ limits, their owners were tasked with teaching them the names of six, and then 12 new toys in a single week. © 2021 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 28023 - Posted: 10.06.2021

By Melissa J. Coleman, Eric Fortune A fundamental feature of vocal communication is taking turns: when one person says something, the other person listens and then responds. Turn-taking requires precise coordination of the timing of signals between individuals. We have all found over the past year communicating over Zoom that disruptions of the timing of auditory cues—like those annoying delays caused by poor connections—make effective communication difficult and frustrating. How do the brains of two individuals synchronize their activity patterns for rapid turn-taking during vocal communication? We addressed this question in a recently published paper by studying turn-taking in a specialist, the plain-tailed wren (Pheugopedius euophrys), which sings precisely timed duets. Our findings demonstrate the ability to coordinate relies on sensory cues from one partner that temporarily inhibit vocalizations in the other. These birds sing duets in which females and males alternate their vocalizations, called syllables, so rapidly it sounds as if a single bird is singing. These wrens live in dense bamboo on the slopes of the Andes. To study the neural basis of duet singing, we flew to Ecuador where we loaded up a truck with equipment and drove to a remote field-site called the Yanayacu Biological Field Station and Center for Creative Studies. Much of our equipment required electricity, so we had to bring car batteries for backup and used a six-meter copper rod that we drove into the soft mountain earth for our electrical ground. Our “lab bench” was a door that we placed on two Pelican suitcases. First, we had to catch pairs of wrens, so we hacked through bamboo with machetes and set up mist nets. We then attracted pairs to the nets by playing the duets of wrens. To see how neurons responded during duets, we surgically implanted very small wires into a specific region of the brain, called HVC. Neurons in this region are responsible for producing the song—that is, they are premotor—and they also respond to auditory signals. To transmit the neural signals (i.e., action potentials) to a computer, a small wireless digital transmitter was then connected to the wires. We then had to wait for the birds to sing their remarkable duets. © 2021 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 27908 - Posted: 07.14.2021

Vincent Acovino A young, red-handed tamarin monkey. Some of these monkeys are changing their vocal call to better communicate with another species of tamarin. Schellhorn/ullstein bild/Getty Images In the Brazilian Amazon, a species of monkey called the pied tamarin is fighting for survival, threatened by habitat loss and urban development. But the critically endangered primate faces another foe: the red-handed tamarin, a more resilient monkey that lives in the same region. They compete for the same resources, and the red-handed tamarin's habitat range is expanding into that of the pied tamarins'. Their clashes sometimes end in violent altercations. But in a recent study, scientists have discovered that the red-handed tamarin is altering its vocal calls to better communicate with the pied tamarin. Tainara Sobroza, an ecology Ph.D. student who worked on the study, says these "territorial calls" are used to warn other species that they are encroaching on their territory, or coming too close to a crucial survival resource. "When this happens, [the two species] usually engage in vocal battles," she says, which sometimes prevent the violent physical battles between the two species. Researchers likened the change in calls to speaking with an accent. "They might need to say 'tomahto' instead of 'tomayto' — that's the kind of nuance in the accent, so that they can really understand each other," Jacob Dunn, a professor of evolutionary biology who worked on the study, told The Guardian. Article continues after sponsor message When analyzing the vocal call of both species, the scientists discovered that the red-handed tamarins new call has a narrower bandwidth and an increased amplitude, making the sound clearer and the duration of the call longer. The result is a call that travels better through the dense forest. © 2021 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 27842 - Posted: 06.02.2021

By Sofia Moutinho Neotropical river otters spend most of their time alone, but that doesn’t stop them from being big chatterboxes. These animals—which live in Central and South America—make a variety of squeaks and growls to convey everything from surprise to playfulness, a new study has found. The discovery could help reveal how communication evolved in all otters—and perhaps help protect these endangered animals. “The study is an in-depth and insightful investigation into the vocal repertoire of this understudied otter species,” says Alexander Saliveros, a biologist and otter expert at the University of Exeter who was not part of the research. All otters make sounds like growls and squeaks to communicate. Some social species, such as the Amazon’s giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), use up to 22 different call types. Others, like the lonesome North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), only have four known calls. But the neotropical river otter (L. longicaudis) has largely remained a mystery. Solitary inhabitants of rivers and lakes, they come together only once a year to mate. That makes their communication especially hard to study, says Sabrina Bettoni, a bioacoustician at the University of Vienna. So Bettoni observed three pairs of playful neotropical river otters—orphans living in a shelter on the island of Santa Catarina, off the southern coast of Brazil. The animals were kept in female-male couples year-round at the Institute Ekko Brazil, a nonprofit focused on wildlife protection. Bettoni recorded every vocalization the animals made. Then, she and colleagues analyzed the sound waves to make sure they were distinct calls with unique properties. Bettoni also spent 3 months observing the animals to understand what calls they used in which situations. © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 27829 - Posted: 05.27.2021

By Virginia Morell Like members of a street gang, male dolphins summon their buddies when it comes time to raid and pillage—or, in their case, to capture and defend females in heat. A new study reveals they do this by learning the “names,” or signature whistles, of their closest allies—sometimes more than a dozen animals—and remembering who consistently cooperated with them in the past. The findings indicate dolphins have a concept of team membership—previously seen only in humans—and may help reveal how they maintain such intricate and tight-knit societies. “It is a ground-breaking study,” says Luke Rendell, a behavioral ecologist at the University of St. Andrews who was not involved with the research. The work adds evidence to the idea that dolphins evolved large brains to navigate their complex social environments. Male dolphins typically cooperate as a pair or trio, in what researchers call a “first-order alliance.” These small groups work together to find and corral a fertile female. Males also cooperate in second-order alliances comprised of as many as 14 dolphins; these defend against rival groups attempting to steal the female. Some second-order alliances join together in even larger third-order alliances, providing males in these groups with even better chances of having allies nearby should rivals attack. © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 27785 - Posted: 04.24.2021

By Nikk Ogasa Honey bees can’t speak, of course, but scientists have found that the insects combine teamwork and odor chemicals to relay the queen’s location to the rest of the colony, revealing an extraordinary means of long distance, mass communication. The research is “really nice, and really careful,” says Gordon Berman, a biologist at Emory University who was not involved in the study. It shows once again, he says, that insects are capable of “exquisite and complex behaviors.” Honey bees communicate with chemicals called pheromones, which they sense through their antennae. Like a monarch pressing a button, the queen emits pheromones to summon worker bees to fulfill her needs. But her pheromones only travel so far. Busy worker bees, however, roam around, and they, too, can call to each other by releasing a pheromone called Nasanov, through a gesticulation known as “scenting; they raise their abdomens to expose their pheromone glands and fan their wings to direct the smelly chemicals backward (seen in the video above, and close-up in the video below). Scientists have long known individual bees scented, but just how these individual signals work together to gather tens of thousands of bees around a queen, such as when the colony leaves the hive to swarm, has remained a mystery. © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 27767 - Posted: 04.10.2021

By Jake Buehler Watch a group of lions yawn, and it may seem like nothing more than big, lazy cats acting sleepy, but new research suggests that these yawns may be subtly communicating some important social cues. Yawning is not only contagious among lions, but it appears to help the predators synchronize their movements, researchers report March 16 in Animal Behaviour. The discovery was partially made by chance, says Elisabetta Palagi, an ethologist at the University of Pisa in Italy. While studying play behavior in spotted hyenas in South Africa, she and colleagues often had the opportunity to watch lions (Panthera leo) at the same time. And she quickly noticed that lions yawn quite frequently, concentrating these yawns in short time periods. Yawning is ubiquitous among vertebrates, possibly boosting blood flow to the skull, cooling the brain and aiding alertness, especially when transitioning in and out of rest (SN: 9/8/15). Fish and reptiles will yawn, but more social vertebrates such as birds and mammals appear to have co-opted the behavior for purposes conducive to group living. In many species — like humans, monkeys, and even parakeets (SN: 6/1/15) — yawners can infect onlookers with their “yawn contagion,” leading onlookers to yawn shortly afterwards. Seeing the lions yawn reminded Palagi of her own work on contagious yawning in primates. Curious if the lions’ prodigious yawning was socially linked, Palagi and her team started recording videos of the big cats, analyzing when they were yawning and any behaviors around those times. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27759 - Posted: 04.08.2021

By Jake Buehler A light crackling sound floats above a field in northern Switzerland in late summer. Its source is invisible, tucked inside a dead, dried plant stem: a dozen larval mason bees striking the inner walls of their herbaceous nest. While adult bees and wasps make plenty of buzzy noises, their young have generally been considered silent. But the babies of at least one bee species make themselves heard, playing percussion instruments growing out of their faces and rear ends, researchers report February 25 in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research. The larvae’s chorus of tapping and rasping may be a clever strategy to befuddle predatory wasps. Unlike honeybees, the mason bee (Hoplitis tridentata) lives a solitary life. Females chew into dead plant stems and lay their eggs inside, often in a single row of chambers lined up along its length. After hatching, the larvae feed on a provision of pollen left by the mom, spin a cocoon and overwinter as a pupa inside the stem. Andreas Müller, an entomologist at the nature conservation research agency Natur Umwelt Wissen GmbH in Zurich, has been studying bees in the Osmiini tribe, which includes mason bees and their close relatives, for about 20 years. Noticing that H. tridentata populations have been declining in northern Switzerland, he and colleague Martin Obrist tried to help the bees. “We offered the bees bundles of dry plant stems as nesting sites, and when we checked the bundles we heard the larval sounds for the first time,” says Müller. “This is a new phenomenon not only in the osmiine bees, but in bees in general.” He and Obrist, a biologist at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf, gathered stem nests from the field and subjected them to various types of physical disturbance, trying to determine what kinds of pestering triggers the bee larvae to drum. In some nests, the duo cut windows into the stems to observe larvae through the translucent cocoon walls, unveiling the secret of how the insects were creating the noises. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 27737 - Posted: 03.17.2021

By Christa Lesté-Lasserre If you’ve ever counted to three before jumping into the pool with a friend, you’ve got something in common with dolphins. The sleek marine mammals use coordinated clicks and whistles to tell each other the precise moment to perform a backflip or push a button, according to new research. That makes them the only animals besides humans known to cooperate with vocal cues. The new work is “fascinating,” says Richard Connor, a cetacean biologist at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, who was not involved with the research. “We just see so much cooperation and synchrony [among dolphins] in the wild. This helps us understand how they accomplish that.” Free-roaming dolphins are often in sync. They hunt in large groups and drive away rivals with coordinated displays. They can even match others’ movements down to their breathing patterns. But how do they achieve such synchronicity? Scientists have long suspected the cetaceans coordinate their actions through vocal cues. Underwater microphones, called hydrophones, have been picking up their whistles and clicks for decades. But dolphins don’t open their mouths when they “talk,” and tracking underwater sound has long been a technical challenge. So scientists have been developing ways to capture those sounds. In France, researchers recently combined five hydrophones to set up a star-shaped pattern that can pinpoint which dolphin in a group is “speaking,” says ethologist Juliana Lopez-Marulanda of Paris-Saclay University who co-developed the approach. © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 27736 - Posted: 03.17.2021

By Jake Buehler During the summer feeding season in high latitudes, male blue whales tend to sing at night. But shortly before migrating south to their breeding grounds, the whales switch up the timing and sing during the day, new research suggests. This is not the first time that scientists have observed whales singing at a particular time of day. But the finding appears to be the first instance of changes in these daily singing patterns throughout the yearly feeding and mating cycle, says William Oestreich, a biological oceanographer at Stanford University. In the North Pacific, blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) spend summers off North America’s coast gorging on krill before traveling to the tropics to breed in winter. Data collected by an underwater microphone dropped into Monterey Bay in California to record the region’s soundscape for five years allowed Oestreich and his colleagues to eavesdrop on whales that visited the bay. When the team separated daytime and nighttime whale songs, it stumbled upon a surprising pattern: In the summer and early fall, most songs occurred at night, but as winter breeding season approached, singing switched mostly to the daytime. “This was a very striking signal to observe in such an enormous dataset,” says Oestreich. The instrument has been collecting audio since July 2015, relaying nearly 2 terabytes of data back to shore every month. The researchers also tagged 15 blue whales with instruments and from 2017 to 2019, recorded the whales’ movements, diving and feeding behavior, as well as their singing — nearly 4,000 songs’ worth. Whales that were feeding and hadn’t yet started migrating to the breeding grounds sang primarily at night — crooning about 10 songs per hour on average at night compared with three songs per hour in the day, or roughly three times as often. But those that had begun their southward trip sang mostly in the day, with the day-night proportions roughly reversed, the team reports October 1 in Current Biology. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 27504 - Posted: 10.03.2020

Researchers say mother bats use baby talk to communicate with their pups. Experts say that it helps bats learn the language. MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST: You know how scientists are always curious? Well, one scientist started wondering if bats do something that humans do. AHANA AURORA FERNANDEZ: When we humans talk to a baby, we automatically change our voices. Hello, my baby. You are so cute. My voice goes up. SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST: That's Ahana Aurora Fernandez. She's in Berlin but did her bat study in Panama. And she found that, as many humans do, mommy bats talk to baby bats in a similar way. There's a word for this way of talking. It's motherese (ph). Experts say that in humans - and, apparently, also in bats - it helps with language learning. KELLY: Ahana Fernandez sent us recordings she made to illustrate her findings. They are slowed down so we can better hear the differences between adult bats talking to each other and the motherese used on bat pups. First, here's two adult bats talking to each other. KELLY: OK, and now here's a mother bat with her pup. PFEIFFER: It took patience for Ahana Hernandez to record bat conversation. She sat in the jungle in a chair for hour after hour, waiting for bat conversations to happen. She even brought along books to pass the time. Scientific research is not always riveting. KELLY: No. All told, Ahana Fernandez and her colleagues conducted their research for these last five years, and they found something else along the way. Baby bats babble. FERNANDEZ: They use sort of a vocal practice behavior which is reminiscent of babbling in infants. KELLY: Bat baby talk. PFEIFFER: Her team's report was published this month, and it shows that in the first three months of life, these bat pups experiment with their speech. FERNANDEZ: They learn a part of their adult vocal repertoire through vocal imitation as we humans do. © 2020 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27444 - Posted: 09.02.2020

By Joshua Sokol A beast calls in the distance. Hearing a low rumble, you might imagine the source will be an unholy cross between a wild boar and a chain saw. The message is unmistakable: I’m here, I’m huge and you can either come mate with me or stay out of my way. Surprise! It’s just a cuddly little koala. Like online dating, the soundscape of the animal world is rife with exaggerations about size, which animals use to scare off rivals and attract mates. Gazelles, howler monkeys, bats and many more creatures have evolved to create calls with deep sonic frequencies that sound as if they come from a much larger animal. Now scientists have proposed this same underlying pressure to exaggerate size might be linked to an even deeper mystery. It could have spurred mammals toward developing the ability to make a wider array of possible calls, to mimic sounds after hearing them and maybe even speech, what scientists call vocal learning. “We are offering one possible way for vocal learning to have evolved,” says Maxime Garcia, a biologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland who suggested the relationship with his colleague, Andrea Ravignani, in the journal Biology Letters this month. Their idea builds off previous studies on vocal learning in humans. Beyond just opera singers, beatboxers and Michael Winslow from the “Police Academy” movies, we all have some level of control over the frequencies of our voices. “I can tell you to lower your pitch or try to sound big, and you can soound like thissss,” said Katarzyna Pisanski at the University of Lyon in France, affecting a deep voice. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 27393 - Posted: 07.31.2020