Chapter 15. Language and Lateralization

Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our mailing list, to receive news updates. Learn more.

Links 41 - 60 of 2630

By Sam Roberts Washoe was 10 months old when her foster parents began teaching her to talk, and five months later they were already trumpeting her success. Not only had she learned words; she could also string them together, creating expressions like “water birds” when she saw a pair of swans and “open flower” to gain admittance to a garden. Washoe was a chimpanzee. She had been born in West Africa, probably orphaned when her mother was killed, sold to a dealer, flown to the United States for use of testing by the Air Force and adopted by R. Allen Gardner and his wife, Beatrix. She was raised as if she were a human child. She craved oatmeal with onions and pumpkin pudding. “The object of our research was to learn how much chimps are like humans,” Professor Gardner told Nevada Today, a University of Nevada publication, in 2007. “To measure this accurately, chimps would be needed to be raised as human children, and to do that, we needed to share a common language.” Washoe ultimately learned some 200 words, becoming what researchers said was the first nonhuman to communicate using sign language developed for the deaf. Professor Gardner, an ethologist who, with his wife, raised the chimpanzee for nearly five years, died on Aug. 20 at his ranch near Reno, Nev. He was 91. His death was announced by the University of Nevada, Reno, where he had joined the faculty in 1963 and conducted his research until he retired in 2010. When scientific journals reported in 1967 that Washoe (pronounced WA-sho), named after a county in Nevada, had learned to recognize and use multiple gestures and expressions in sign language, the news electrified the world of psychologists and ethologists who study animal behavior. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 28013 - Posted: 10.02.2021

By Jonathan Lambert Vampire bats may be bloodthirsty, but that doesn’t mean they can’t share a drink with friends. Fights can erupt among bats over gushing wounds bit into unsuspecting animals. But bats that have bonded while roosting often team up to drink blood away from home, researchers report September 23 in PLOS Biology. Vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) can form long-term social bonds with each other through grooming, sharing regurgitated blood meals and generally hanging out together at the roost (SN: 10/31/19). But whether these friendships, which occur between both kin and nonkin, extend to the bats’ nightly hunting had been unclear. “They’re flying around out there, but we didn’t know if they were still interacting with each other,” says Gerald Carter, an evolutionary biologist at Ohio State University in Columbus. To find out, Carter and his colleague Simon Ripperger of the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, built on previous research that uncovered a colony’s social network using bat backpacks. Tiny computer sensors glued to 50 female bats in Tolé, Panama, continuously registered proximity to other sensors both within the roost and outside, revealing when bats met up while foraging. Two common vampire bats feed on a cow near La Chorrera, Panama. It can take 10 to 40 minutes for a bat to bite a small, diamond-shaped wound into an animal’s flesh, and fights can sometimes break out over access to wounds. But researchers found that bats who are friendly back at the roost likely feed together in the field, potentially saving time and energy. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 28005 - Posted: 09.25.2021

Jon Hamilton People who have had a stroke appear to regain more hand and arm function if intensive rehabilitation starts two to three months after the injury to their brain. A study of 72 stroke patients suggests this is a "critical period," when the brain has the greatest capacity to rewire, a team reports in this week's journal PNAS. The finding challenges the current practice of beginning rehabilitation as soon as possible after a stroke and suggests intensive rehabilitation should go on longer than most insurance coverage allows, says Elissa Newport, a co-author of the study and director of the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery at Georgetown University Medical Center. Newport was speaking in place of the study's lead author, Dr. Alexander Dromerick, who died after the study was accepted but before it was published. If the results are confirmed with other larger studies, "the clinical protocol for the timing of stroke rehabilitation would be changed," says Li-Ru Zhao, a professor of neurosurgery at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y., who was not involved in the research. The study involved patients treated at Medstar National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C., most in their 50s and 60s. One of the study participants was Anthony McEachern, who was 45 when he had a stroke in 2017. Just a few hours earlier, McEachern had been imitating Michael Jackson dance moves with his kids. But at home that night he found himself unable stand up. © 2021 npr

Keyword: Stroke; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 28002 - Posted: 09.22.2021

Christie Wilcox If it walks like a duck and talks like a person, it’s probably a musk duck (Biziura lobata)—the only waterfowl species known that can learn sounds from other species. The Australian species’ facility for vocal learning had been mentioned anecdotally in the ornithological literature; now, a paper published September 6 in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B reviews and discusses the evidence, which includes 34-year-old recordings made of a human-reared musk duck named Ripper engaging in an aggressive display while quacking “you bloody fool.” Ripper quacking "you bloody fool" while being provoked by a person separated from him by a fence The Scientist spoke with the lead author on the paper, Leiden University animal behavior researcher Carel ten Cate, to learn more about these unique ducks and what their unexpected ability reveals about the evolution of vocal learning. The Scientist: What is vocal learning? Carel ten Cate: Vocal learning, as it is used in this case, is that animals and humans, they learn their sounds from experience. So they learn from what they hear around them, which will usually be the parents, but it can also be other individuals. And if they don’t get that sort of exposure, then they will be unable to produce species-specific vocalizations, or in the human case, speech sounds and proper spoken language. © 1986–2021 The Scientist.

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 27987 - Posted: 09.13.2021

By Carolyn Wilke Babies may laugh like some apes a few months after birth before transitioning to chuckling more like human adults, a new study finds. Laughter links humans to great apes, our evolutionary kin (SN: 6/4/09). Human adults tend to laugh while exhaling (SN: 6/10/15), but chimpanzees and bonobos mainly laugh in two ways. One is like panting, with sound produced on both in and out breaths, and the other has outbursts occurring on exhales, like human adults. Less is known about how human babies laugh. So Mariska Kret, a cognitive psychologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and colleagues scoured the internet for videos with laughing 3- to 18-month-olds, and asked 15 speech sound specialists and thousands of novices to judge the babies’ laughs. After evaluating dozens of short audio clips, experts and nonexperts alike found that younger infants laughed during inhalation and exhalation, while older infants laughed more on the exhale. That finding suggests that infants’ laughter becomes less apelike with age, the researchers report in the September Biology Letters. Humans start to laugh around 3 months of age, but early on, “it hasn’t reached its full potential,” Kret says. Both babies’ maturing vocal tracts and their social interactions may influence the development of the sounds, the researchers say.

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 27983 - Posted: 09.11.2021

By Jonathan Lambert At least 65 million years of evolution separate humans and greater sac-winged bats, but these two mammals share a key feature of learning how to speak: babbling. Just as human infants babble their way from “da-da-da-da” to “Dad,” wild bat pups (Saccopteryx bilineata) learn the mating and territorial songs of adults by first babbling out the fundamental syllables of the vocalizations, researchers report in the Aug. 20 Science. These bats now join humans as the only clear examples of mammals who learn to make complex vocalizations through babbling. “This is a hugely important step forward in the study of vocal learning,” says Tecumseh Fitch, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Vienna not involved in the new study. “These findings suggest that there are deep parallels between how humans and young bats learn to control their vocal apparatus,” he says. The work could enable future studies that might allow researchers to peer deeper into the brain activity that underpins vocal learning. Before complex vocalizations, whether words or mating songs, can be spoken or sung, vocalizers must learn to articulate the syllables that make up a species’s vocabulary, says Ahana Fernandez, an animal behavior biologist at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. “Babbling is a way of practicing,” and honing those vocalizations, she says. The rhythmic, repetitive “ba-ba-ba’s” and “ga-ga-ga’s” of human infants may sound like gibberish, but they are necessary exploratory steps toward learning how to talk. Seeing whether babbling is required for any animal that learns complex vocalizations necessitates looking in other species. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021.

Keyword: Language; Hearing
Link ID: 27957 - Posted: 08.21.2021

Lydia Denworth Lee Reeves always wanted to be a veterinarian. When he was in high school in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, he went to an animal hospital near his house on a busy Saturday morning to apply for a job. The receptionist said the doctor was too busy to talk. But Reeves was determined and waited. Three and a half hours later, after all the dogs and cats had been seen, the veterinarian emerged and asked Reeves what he could do for him. Reeves, who has stuttered since he was three years old, had trouble answering. “I somehow struggled out the fact that I wanted the job and he asked me what my name was,” he says. “I couldn’t get my name out to save my life.” The vet finally reached for a piece of paper and had Reeves write down his name and add his phone number, but he said there was no job available. “I remember walking out of that clinic that morning thinking that essentially my life was over,” Reeves says. “Not only was I never going to become a veterinarian, but I couldn’t even get a job cleaning cages.” More than 50 years have passed. Reeves, who is now 72, has gone on to become an effective national advocate for people with speech impairments, but the frustration and embarrassment of that day are still vivid. They are also emblematic of the complicated experience that is stuttering. Technically, stuttering is a disruption in the easy flow of speech, but the physical struggle and the emotional effects that often go with it have led observers to wrongly attribute the condition to defects of the tongue or voice box, problems with cognition, emotional trauma or nervousness, forcing left-handed children to become right-handed, and, most unfortunately, poor parenting. Freudian psychiatrists thought stuttering represented “oral-sadistic conflict,” whereas the behavioralists argued that labeling a child a stutterer would exacerbate the problem. Reeves’s parents were told to call no attention to his stutter—wait it out, and it would go away. © 2021 Scientific American,

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 27942 - Posted: 08.11.2021

Katharine Sanderson Liz Williams was standing pitchside at a women’s rugby match, and she did not like what she was seeing. Williams, who researches forensic biomechanics at Swansea University, UK, had equipped some of the players with a mouthguard that contained a sensor to measure the speed of head movement. She wanted to understand more about head injuries in the brutal sport. “There were a few instances when my blood went cold,” Williams said. When the women fell in a tackle, their heads would often whiplash into the ground. The sensors showed that the skull was accelerating — indicating an increased risk of brain injury. But medical staff at the match, not trained to look out for this type of head movement as a cause of injury, deemed the women fine to play on. Such whiplash injuries are much rarer when males play. Williams’ observations highlight an increasingly apparent problem. A growing body of data suggests that female athletes are at significantly greater risk of a traumatic brain injury event than male athletes. They also fare worse after a concussion and take longer to recover. As researchers gather more data, the picture becomes steadily more alarming. Female athletes are speaking out about their own experiences, including Sue Lopez, the United Kingdom’s first semi-professional female football player in the 1970s, who now has dementia — a diagnosis she has linked to concussions from heading the ball. Researchers have offered some explanations for the greater risk to women, although the science is at an early stage. Their ideas range from differences in the microstructure of the brain to the influence of hormones, coaching regimes, players’ level of experience and the management of injuries. © 2021 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 27932 - Posted: 08.04.2021

By Alistair Magowan BBC Sport Defenders are more likely to have dementia in later life compared with other playing positions in football, says new research. In 2019, a study by Professor Willie Stewart found that former footballers were about three and a half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative brain disease than the general population. But his new research says the risk is highest among defenders, who are five times more likely to have dementia than non-footballers. That compared with three times the risk for forwards, and almost no extra risk for goalkeepers compared with the population. Outfield players were four times more likely to have brain disease such as dementia. The research by the University of Glasgow, which was funded by the Football Association and players' union the Professional Footballers' Association, also found that risk increased the longer a player's football career was. And despite changes in football technology and head-injury management in recent years, there was no evidence that neurodegenerative disease risk changed for footballers in this study, whose careers spanned from about 1930 to the late 1990s. 'Footballs should be sold with a health warning about heading' Study author and consultant neuropathologist Dr Stewart said that it was time for football to eliminate the risk of heading, which he said could also cause short-term impairment of brain function. "I think footballs should be sold with a health warning saying repeated heading in football may lead to increased risks of dementia," he said. "Unlike other dementias and degenerative diseases, where we have no idea what causes them, we know the risk factor [with football] and it's entirely preventable. © 2021 BBC.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 27931 - Posted: 08.04.2021

By Pam Belluck He has not been able to speak since 2003, when he was paralyzed at age 20 by a severe stroke after a terrible car crash. Now, in a scientific milestone, researchers have tapped into the speech areas of his brain — allowing him to produce comprehensible words and sentences simply by trying to say them. When the man, known by his nickname, Pancho, tries to speak, electrodes implanted in his brain transmit signals to a computer that displays his intended words on the screen. His first recognizable sentence, researchers said, was, “My family is outside.” The achievement, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help many patients with conditions that steal their ability to talk. “This is farther than we’ve ever imagined we could go,” said Melanie Fried-Oken, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the project. Three years ago, when Pancho, now 38, agreed to work with neuroscience researchers, they were unsure if his brain had even retained the mechanisms for speech. “That part of his brain might have been dormant, and we just didn’t know if it would ever really wake up in order for him to speak again,” said Dr. Edward Chang, chairman of neurological surgery at University of California, San Francisco, who led the research. The team implanted a rectangular sheet of 128 electrodes, designed to detect signals from speech-related sensory and motor processes linked to the mouth, lips, jaw, tongue and larynx. In 50 sessions over 81 weeks, they connected the implant to a computer by a cable attached to a port in Pancho’s head, and asked him to try to say words from a list of 50 common ones he helped suggest, including “hungry,” “music” and “computer.” As he did, electrodes transmitted signals through a form of artificial intelligence that tried to recognize the intended words. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain imaging; Language
Link ID: 27913 - Posted: 07.17.2021

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,

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
Link ID: 27908 - Posted: 07.14.2021

Andrew Anthony David Eagleman, 50, is an American neuroscientist, bestselling author and presenter of the BBC series The Brain, as well as co-founder and chief executive officer of Neosensory, which develops devices for sensory substitution. His area of speciality is brain plasticity, and that is the subject of his new book, Livewired, which examines how experience refashions the brain, and shows that it is a much more adaptable organ than previously thought. For the past half-century or more the brain has been spoken of in terms of a computer. What are the biggest flaws with that particular model? It’s a very seductive comparison. But in fact, what we’re looking at is three pounds of material in our skulls that is essentially a very alien kind of material to us. It doesn’t write down memories, the way we think of a computer doing it. And it is capable of figuring out its own culture and identity and making leaps into the unknown. I’m here in Silicon Valley. Everything we talk about is hardware and software. But what’s happening in the brain is what I call livewire, where you have 86bn neurons, each with 10,000 connections, and they are constantly reconfiguring every second of your life. Even by the time you get to the end of this paragraph, you’ll be a slightly different person than you were at the beginning. In what way does the working of the brain resemble drug dealers in Albuquerque? It’s that the brain can accomplish remarkable things without any top-down control. If a child has half their brain removed in surgery, the functions of the brain will rewire themselves on to the remaining real estate. And so I use this example of drug dealers to point out that if suddenly in Albuquerque, where I happened to grow up, there was a terrific earthquake, and half the territory was lost, the drug dealers would rearrange themselves to control the remaining territory. It’s because each one has competition with his neighbours and they fight over whatever territory exists, as opposed to a top-down council meeting where the territory is distributed. And that’s really the way to understand the brain. It’s made up of billions of neurons, each of which is competing for its own territory. © 2021 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Stroke
Link ID: 27855 - Posted: 06.16.2021

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

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
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.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
Link ID: 27829 - Posted: 05.27.2021

Ian Sample Science editor A man who was paralysed from the neck down in an accident more than a decade ago has written sentences using a computer system that turns imagined handwriting into words. It is the first time scientists have created sentences from brain activity linked to handwriting and paves the way for more sophisticated devices to help paralysed people communicate faster and more clearly. The man, known as T5, who is in his 60s and lost practically all movement below his neck after a spinal cord injury in 2007, was able to write 18 words a minute when connected to the system. On individual letters, his “mindwriting” was more than 94% accurate. Frank Willett, a research scientist on the project at Stanford University in California, said the approach opened the door to decoding other imagined actions, such as 10-finger touch typing and attempted speech for patients who had permanently lost their voices. “Instead of detecting letters, the algorithm would be detecting syllables, or rather phonemes, the fundamental unit of speech,” he said. Amy Orsborn, an expert in neural engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the work, called it “a remarkable advance” in the field. Scientists have developed numerous software packages and devices to help paralysed people communicate, ranging from speech recognition programs to the muscle-driven cursor system created for the late Cambridge cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who used a screen on which a cursor automatically moved over the letters of the alphabet. To select one, and to build up words, he simply tensed his cheek. © 2021 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Brain imaging; Robotics
Link ID: 27822 - Posted: 05.15.2021

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

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
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.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Evolution
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

Keyword: Animal Communication; 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.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
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.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
Link ID: 27736 - Posted: 03.17.2021