Monday, August 29, 2011

A Prairie Dog Language?

Scientists have recently discovered that prairie dogs seem to have a language of their own. In their language they can tell other prairie dogs if there is a predator around, what kind of predator it is (coyote, hawk, etc), and even the color of the predator!

For 30 years, Professor Con Slobodchikoff and his colleagues have been recording the calls of the prairie dogs. They have found that prairie dogs have been confronted by so many different predators so often, that they have, over time, developed a way to accurately describe the predators. These “words” can be used to say, "tall, skinny coyote in distance, moving rapidly towards colony".

Professor Slobodchikoff and his team believe that prairie dogs can do this by slightly alternating the accents and of the call and the harmonics in the bark. This allows them to “say” a lot of information in a very short amount of time. Prof Slobodchikoff says, "Prairie dogs have the most complex natural language that has been decoded so far. They have words for different predators, they have descriptive words for describing the individual features of different predators, so it's a pretty complex language that has a lot of elements."

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