Animal communication


            Animal communication


Scientists discovered that anatomical differences prevent other primates from speaking like humans. Humans have more flexibility with our tongues, and our larynx, the organ that vibrates to make the sounds we recognize as language, is lower in our throats. Both of these adaptations allow us to produce the wide variety of sounds that comprise human languages.       


While both animals and humans use systems of communication, the use of complex symbols and open vocal systems is unique to humans.

All animals use some form of communication, although some animal communication is more complex than others. Animal language is any form of communication that shows similarities to human language; however, there are significant differences. Some animals use signs, signals, or sounds to communicate. Lexigrams, or figures and symbols that represent words, are commonly used by chimpanzees and baboons, while animals such as birds and whales use song to communicate among one another. Bees uses complex "dances" to convey information about location. Other animals use odors or body movements to communicate.

Bees use body movements to communicate with one another.

Honeybee communication
Source : https://amazingworldofanimals.wordpress.com/

The Round Dance


The round dance is used for food sources 25-100 meters away from the hive or closer. After distributing some of her new-found nectar to waiting bees the scout will begin running in a small circle, switching direction every so often. After the dance ends food is again distributed at this or some other place on the comb and the dance may be repeated three or (rarely) more times.

The round dance does not give directional information. Bees elicited into foraging after a round dance fly out of the hive in all directions searching for the food source they know must be there. Odor helps recruited bees find the new flowers in two ways. Bees watching the dance detect fragrance of the flower left on the dancing bee. Additionally, the scout bee leaves odor from its scent gland on the flower that helps guide the recruits.

The Waggle Dance


As the food source becomes more distant the round dance is replaced by the waggle dance. There is a gradual transition between the round and waggle dance, taking place through either a figure eight or sickle shaped pattern.

The waggle dance includes information about the direction and energy required to fly to the goal. Energy expenditure (or distance) is indicated by the length of time it takes to make one circuit. For example a bee may dance 8-9 circuits in 15 seconds for a food source 200 meters away, 4-5 for a food source 1000 meters away, and 3 circuits in 15 seconds for a food source 2000 meters away.

Direction of the food source is indicated by the direction the dancer faces during the straight portion of the dance when the bee is waggling. If she waggles while facing straight upward, than the food source may be found in the direction of the sun.If she waggles at an angle 60 degrees to the left of upward the food source may be found 60 degrees to the left of the sun.Similarly, if the dancer waggles 120 degrees to the right of upward, the food source may be found 210 degrees to the right of the sun. The dancer emits sounds during the waggle run that help the recruits determine direction in the darkness of the hive.


Communication in both animals and humans consists of signals. Signals are sounds or gestures that have some meaning to those using them. The meaning is often self-evident based on context: for example, many animals roar, growl, or groan in response to threats of danger; similarly, humans may wave their arms or scream in the event of something dangerous. These signals in these situations are designed to let others in the species know that something is wrong and the animal or human needs help.

Human communication consists of both signals and symbols. Symbols are sounds or gestures that have a specific meaning to a group of people. This meaning could be cultural, group-related, or even related between two specific people. For example, two people may create a "secret" handshake, or a group may develop a passcode that only members are aware of. Symbols, unlike signals, must be taught and learned; they are not instinctual or self-evident.

The dog who knows 1,000 words

Meet Chaser, a dog that "knows" 1,000 words. Chaser's owners claim that he understands language, as evidenced by his ability to understand novel linguistic stimuli (such as the names of unknown toys). Critics claim that Chaser is not understanding language as humans can, but that he has been conditioned or trained to discriminate between certain phoneme sounds.

What about nonhuman primates, who share many similarities with humans? Nonhuman primates communicate in ways that are very similar to those used by humans; however, there are important differences as well. First and foremost, humans use a larger repertoire of symbols, and these symbols are substantially more complex. Second, and more importantly, nonhuman primates (and other animals who communicate with one another) have what is known as a closed vocal system: this means different sounds cannot be combined together to produce new symbols with different meanings. Humans, by contrast, have open vocal systems, which allow for combinations of symbols to create new symbols with a totally new meaning and therefore allows for an infinite number of ideas to be expressed.

Human language is also the only kind that is modality-independent; that is, it can be used across multiple channels. Verbal language is auditory, but other forms of language—writing and sign language (visual), Braille (tactile)—are possible in more complex human language systems.

One of the most famous case studies in the debate over how complex nonhuman-primate language can be is Koko the gorilla. Koko is famous for having learned over a thousand signs of "Gorilla Sign Language," a simple sign language developed to try to teach nonhuman primates complex language. Koko can respond in GSL to about two thousand words of spoken English. However, it is generally accepted that she does not use syntax or grammar, and that her use of language does not exceed that of a young human child.

Kanzi with lexigram

Kanzi is a bonobo, whose trainers claim that not only can he understand human language, but he can manipulate human language to create sentences. Here, Kanzi is in a research session at Great Ape Trust of Iowa using a lexigram with his trainer. There continues to be debate as to whether nonhuman primates, including bonobos, are actually learning and understanding languages or are simply demonstrating the effects of operant conditioning (learning to associate words and signs via reinforcement).

Parrot vs. Child: The Intelligence Test—Extraordinary Animals—Earth

It's Griffin versus the nursery school children in another bird brain test for this Extraordinary Animal.


Source : http://www.livescience.com/22474-animal-languages-communication.html
When Will We Learn To Speak Animal Languages ?


Koko's website : https://www.koko.org

Koko the gorilla can comprehend roughly 2,000 words of spoken English. She doesn't have a vocal tract suitable for responding verbally, so the 40-year-old ape signs her thoughts using a modified form of American Sign Language (ASL). Counting her native gorilla tongue, she is, therefore, trilingual.

And she doesn't just talk about food. Over the 28 years that gorilla researcher Penny Patterson has worked with Koko, the ape has expressed a whole range of emotions associated with humans, Patterson says, including happiness, sadness, love, grief and embarrassment.

Alex the African grey parrot could utter some 150 English words by the time of his death in 2007. The wordy bird demonstrated that he could count up to six objects, distinguish between numerous colors and shapes, combine words to create new meanings and understand abstract relational concepts such as "bigger," "smaller," "over" and "under." On the night of his death, at age 31, Alex's last words to his handler, animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg, reportedly were: "You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you."

From Chaser the border collie and Kanzi the bonobo to Akeakamai the dolphin, lab animals of many stripes have excelled at learning the rudiments of human languages. But despite the great strides these animals have made in crossing the species divide and communicating with humans in human terms, people have seldom ventured the other way.

Surely, as the most intelligent species, humans could learn to understand dolphin-speak better than dolphins learn sign language. Instead of trying to teach human communication systems to animals, why don't people decode theirs?

As it turns out, many scientists are trying. They hope to someday learn dolphin, elephant, gorilla, dog and all the other animal tongues. One scientist has already decoded a great deal of prairie dog. But researchers are off to a slow and late start down this road, because they're having to overcome a major obstacle of their own making: the idea that animals don't actually have languages.

"It's a hotly debated area, because there are still people who want to separate humans from other animals," said Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-founder (with primatologist Jane Goodall) of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "So if you're doing fieldwork and you see something in the animal's communication system that looks like syntax, they're going to say it isn't."

Constantine Slobodchikoff may have ventured further beyond this barrier than anyone. A professor emeritus of biology at Northern Arizona University, he has spent decades decoding the communication system of Gunnison's prairie dogs, a species native to the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest. Prairie dogs are rodents. They aren't particularly renowned for their smarts. And yet, in dozens of books and articles over the past three decades, Slobodchikoff and his colleagues have laid out extensive evidence that prairie dogs have a complex language. And he can understand a lot of it.

When they see a predator, prairie dogs warn one another using high-pitched chirps. To the untrained ear, these chirps may all sound the same, but they aren’t. Slobodchikoff calls the alarm calls a "Rosetta stone" in decoding prairie-dog language, because they occur in a context people can understand, enabling interpretation.

In his research, Slobodchikoff records the alarm calls and subsequent escape behaviors of prairie dogs in response to approaching predators. Then, when no predator is present, he plays back these recorded alarm calls and films the prairie dogs' escape responses. If the escape responses to the playback match those when the predator was present, this suggests meaningful information is encoded in the calls.

And indeed, there seems to be. Slobodchikoff has discovered the rodents have distinct calls pertaining to different potential predator species, such as coyotes, humans or domestic dogs. Their calls even specify the color, size and shape of the predator; for example, they'll differentiate between an overweight, tall human wearing a blue T-shirt and a thin, short human wearing green.

Prairie Dog Alarm Calls

Remarkably, the prairie dogs even create new alarm calls in response to foreign objects introduced by the researchers, such as a picture of a large black oval. Although the prairie dogs never would have had cause to discuss such an object previously, they all generate an identical alarm call in response to it, suggesting they are describing the oval’s size, shape and color in a standard way.

And just like different groups of humans, different species of prairie dogs have distinct dialects. The Gunnison's prairie dogs that Slobodchikoff studies are unlikely to understand the calls of Mexican prairie dogs, Slobodchikoff said.

Their communication goes beyond alarm calls. “Prairie dogs also have what I call social chatters, where one prairie dog will produce a string of vocalizations, and another prairie dog across the colony will respond with a different string of vocalizations,” Slobodchikoff told Life’s Little Mysteries. "I can show that there seems to be some syntax in these strings, but since nothing about the behavior of the prairie dogs changes, I can't say anything about the context, and so I have no way of decoding the possible information contained in these [social] chatters." [Rats Are Ticklish, and Other Weird Animal Facts]

In his new book, "Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals" (St. Martin's Press), scheduled for release on Nov. 27, Slobodchikoff lays out his and other scientists' latest efforts to learn animal tongues.


If animals seemingly as simple as rodents have a language replete with nouns, adjectives, syntax and dialects, think what higher-order animals might be saying.

Elephants hold funerals for their dead and have been known to orchestrate raids on human villages in retaliation for poaching. Chimps wage wars. Complex animal behaviors like these necessitate complex languages, Bekoff said. "People wonder, 'How do wolves coordinate their hunts?' It's by having really complex communication systems."

Consider dolphins. They form strong social bonds, and a recent study found they even display culture, preferring to socialize with other dolphins that use the same simple tools as they do. Dolphins also make a variety of vocalizations, such as clicks and whistles. Those aren't likely to be meaningless. So will people ever learn what they're saying?

It turns out scientists have been trying to do so for over half a century. "We know a lot more than we knew a few decades ago, but we're still a long way from two-way communication," said Stan Kuczaj, director of the Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Kuczaj said the major stumbling block has been figuring out what the units of dolphin communication are.

Monosyllabic sounds and other "phonemes are the building blocks of human languages," Kuczaj told Life’s Little Mysteries. "We don't know what the building blocks of dolphin communication systems are. Are they whistles, clicks? We now know they use touch and posture as well. My guess is we'll learn more about the units by studying the development of communication in dolphin calves. And then the next level is, what do the combinations of the units mean?"

Denise Herzing and colleagues at the Wild Dolphin Project have discovered that dolphins seem to address each other with names — vocalizations that the researchers call "signature whistles." These would suggest the whistles are units of communication, but how dolphins' clicks and postures enter in remains to be determined.

Kuczaj thinks we may eventually crack the code, but not everyone agrees there's a code to be cracked. Justin Gregg, a researcher with an international dolphin research organization called the Dolphin Communication Project, thinks dolphins may not have units of language at all.

"After 50 years of studying dolphin communication, it does not seem that dolphins are producing wordlike vocalizations that we can then 'decode' in the way you might think of when you think of 'learning' a foreign language or 'deciphering' Egyptian hieroglyphics," Gregg said. "This is because animal communication systems and human language are very different. Dolphin communication does not likely contain wordlike 'symbols' or 'grammar' in the way we think of human language. At present, there is no reason to believe that dolphin communication functions like human language, and thus there is no 'language' there for us to learn in the first place."

Only time will tell if that distinction between communication and language bears out. After all, if prairie dogs have the loquacity to describe an unnatural black oval in their midst, then many scientists think a surprising number of other social animals probably do as well.


Koko, the gorilla, says goodbye to friend Robin Williams

Turns out, the magic of Robin Williams reached beyond our own species.

Back in 2001, Williams met Koko, a gorilla taught to speak American Sign Language, and she, too, had a rollicking good time with the comedian. There’s even more to the story than just a celebrity meeting, though.

According to Huffington Post:

    "Williams, they said, managed to do something that day that was truly extraordinary: He made Koko smile."

    At the time of her meeting with Williams, Koko hadn’t cracked a smile in more than six months — “ever since her lifelong gorilla companion, Michael, passed away,” according to the conservation group.

Koko, like so many of us, was devastated to hear of the actor’s death, as seen in the photo above. The Gorilla Foundation is hoping that a video of their happy memories helps to ease her pain.


Useful links :

Koko's website : https://www.koko.org

Google Translate for Animals (Android app)


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