Prairie dogs can describe what humans look like

January 23rd, 2011 - 5:39 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 23 (IANS) Prairie dogs chat with each other and can describe what different human beings look like.The species, only found in North America, call out to warn their friends when a predator approaches their habitat.

Not only that, they have calls for ‘human’, one for ‘hawk’ and another for ‘coyote’, radio station NPR reports, according to the Daily Mail.

Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University in the US has been studying about prairie dogs for 30 years, particularly deciphering their language to “open the door for understanding how other species communicate”.

The prairie dog’s barks, yips and chirping sounds are really a sophisticated form of communication that contains a vocabulary of at least 100 words, Slobodchikoff claims, according to a Arizona statement.

“The little yips prairie dogs make, contain a lot of information,” he said. “They can describe details of predators such as their size, shape, colour and how fast they are going.

“They also can discriminate whether an approaching animal is a coyote or a dog, and they can decipher different types of birds.”

Slobodchikoff and his students hid themselves in prairie dog villages and recorded the noises the rodents made whenever a human, hawk, dog or coyote passed through them.

What they found was that the prairie dog issues different calls depending on the intruder. The researchers discovered this by analysing the recorded calls for frequency and tone.

They concluded that it doesn’t have one call for ‘danger’, rather it has a collection of warning noises - or a language.

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