When humans speak, they structure individual syllables with the aid of vowels and consonants. Due to their anatomy, animals can only produce a limited number of distinguishable sounds and calls. Complex animal sound expressions such as whale and bird songs are formed because smaller sound units – so-called “syllables” or “phonocodes” – are repeatedly combined into new arrangements.
Even the monosyllabic call of the banded mongoose is structured and thus comparable with the vowel and consonant system of human speech.
Single syllable provides information on the identity and activity of the caller.
However, it was previously assumed that monosyllabic sound expressions such as contact or alarm calls do not have any combinational structures. Behavioral biologist Marta Manser and her doctoral student David Jansen from the University of Zurich have now proved that the monosyllabic calls of banded mongooses are structured and contain different information. They thus demonstrate for the first time that animals also have a sound expression structure that bears a certain similarity to the vowel and consonant system of human speech.
Single syllable provides information on the identity and activity of the caller
The research was conducted on wild banded mongooses at a research station in Uganda. For their study, the scientists used a combination of detailed behavior observations, recordings of calls and acoustic analyses of contact calls. Such a call lasts for between 50 and 150 milliseconds and can be construed as a single ‘syllable’. Jansen and his colleagues now reveal that, despite their brevity, the monosyllabic calls of banded mongooses exhibit several temporally segregated vocal signatures. They suspected that these were important so studied the individual calls for evidence of individuality and behavior. “The initial sound of the call provides information on the identity of the animal calling,” explains Jansen. The second more tonal part of the call, which is similar to a vowel, however, indicates the caller’s current activity.
Structured single syllables in animals not an exception?
Manser and her team are thus the first to demonstrate that animals also structure single syllables – much like vowels and consonants in human speech. The researchers are convinced that the banded mongoose is not the only animal species that is able to structure syllables. They assume that the phenomenon was overlooked in scientific studies thus far. For instance, they point out that frogs and bats also structure single syllables. “The example of banded mongooses shows that so-called simple animal sound expressions might be far more complex than was previously thought possible.”
Banded mongooses (Mungo mungos) live in the savannah regions south of the Sahara. They are small predators that live in social communities and are related to the meerkat (Suricata suricatta). Banded mongooses differ from meerkats and other mammals that rear their young cooperatively in that several females have offspring. In the case of meerkats, however, only the dominant female has young.
Banded mongoose groups each comprise around twenty adult animals. The group looks after the young animals, defends its territory jointly and forages as a unit. As soon as the young go foraging with the group, they enter into an exclusive, one-on-one relationship with an adult animal, an escort. The young recognize their escort based on its call and are able to distinguish it from other group members. Banded mongooses have a wide range of sounds and coordinate their activities by this means, which enables them to maintain group cohesion.Contact:
Beat Müller | Universität Zürich
Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University
LMU-Mediziner zeigen eine wichtige Funktion von Blutplättchen auf: Sie bewegen sich aktiv und interagieren mit Erregern.
Die aktive Rolle von Blutplättchen bei der Immunabwehr wurde bislang unterschätzt: Sie übernehmen mehr Funktionen als bekannt war. Das zeigt eine Studie von...
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
Der Forschergruppe von Prof. Dr. Markus Retsch an der Universität Bayreuth ist es erstmals gelungen, die von der Temperatur abhängige Wärmeleitfähigkeit mit Hilfe von polymeren Materialien präzise zu steuern. In der Zeitschrift Science Advances werden diese fortschrittlichen, zunächst für Laboruntersuchungen hergestellten Funktionsmaterialien beschrieben. Die hiermit gewonnenen Erkenntnisse sind von großer Relevanz für die Entwicklung neuer Konzepte zur Wärmedämmung.
Von Schmetterlingsflügeln zu neuen Funktionsmaterialien
Wissenschaftler am Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik erreichen mit neuer Speichertechnik für photonische Quantenbits Kohärenzzeiten, welche die weltweite...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
15.12.2017 | Veranstaltungen
15.12.2017 | Veranstaltungen
14.12.2017 | Veranstaltungen
15.12.2017 | Informationstechnologie
15.12.2017 | Verfahrenstechnologie
15.12.2017 | Energie und Elektrotechnik