Prairie Dogs Have Their Own Language and Can Describe What Humans Look Like

It’s a language that would twist the tongue of even the most sophisticated linguist. Prairie dogs talk to each other and can describe what different human beings look like, according to scientists. The species – only found in North America – call out to warn their friends when a predator approaches their habitat. Not only that, but they have calls for ‘human’, one for ‘hawk’ and another for ‘coyote’, radio station NPR reports.

Professor Con Slobodchikoff, of Northern Arizona University, has been studying prairie dogs for 30 years. He is particularly interested in deciphering their language because to do so would ‘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, Professor Slobodchikoff claims. ‘The little yips prairie dogs make contain a lot of information,’ he said.

Professor Con Slobodchikoff, of Northern Arizona University, has been studying prairie dogs for 30 years

‘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.’

Professor 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. 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.

To further develop this line of investigation, Professor Slobodchikoff gathered four volunteers and had them walk through a prairie dog village four times. On each occasion they wore the same clothing, except for different colour shirts. The prairie dogs responded by issuing different calls, depending on the colour of the volunteers’ shirts.

Professor Slobodchikoff then discovered they also issued different calls for varying heights, and even for abstract shapes including cardboard circles, squares and triangles. He told NPR: ‘Essentially they were saying, “Here comes the tall human in the blue,” versus, “Here comes the short human in the yellow.”‘

Above section from internet

This is an article I wrote about prairie dogs and a well-known painting showing them in praise or rapture or not.

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Filed under Critters, grasslands national park, PRAIRIES

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