Nav: Home

Hear them roar: How humans and chickadees understand each other

July 12, 2019

Is there something universal about the sounds we make that allows vocal learners--like songbirds--to figure out how we're feeling? Sounds like it, according to new research by University of Alberta scientists.

The researchers examined the elements within vocalizations that indicate a level of arousal such as fear or excitement. They found that both humans and black-capped chickadees can detect arousal levels in other species.

"The idea is that some species can understand other species' vocalizations," explained Jenna Congdon, PhD student in the Department of Psychology. "For instance, a songbird is able to understand the call of distress of a different type of songbird when they are in the presence of a predator, like an owl or a hawk. Or, for example, if your friend scared you and you screamed. Both of these are high-arousal vocalizations, and being able to understand what that sounds like in a different species can be very useful."

Sounds like it

Under the supervision of Professor Chris Sturdy, Congdon conducted two experiments, one examining chickadees and another examining humans. In the experiments, participants distinguished between high- and low-arousal vocalizations produced by other species, including alligators, chickadees, elephants, humans, pandas, piglets, ravens, macaques, and tree frogs. Human subjects were able to identify high arousal in different species.

"Black-capped chickadees were also able to identify high arousal in other chickadees, humans, and giant pandas," said Congdon. "This is fascinating, because a chickadee that has never come across a giant panda before is able to categorize high--and low--arousal vocalizations."

The scientists suspect that other vocal learners, or species that learn their vocalizations from parents and models in order to survive, have this ability as well. "It is only a small group of species who do this in the world--humans, songbirds, hummingbirds, parrots, bats, whales and dolphins, and elephants," said Congdon. "If humans and songbirds show an innate ability to understand the vocalizations of other species, would other vocal learners show this same propensity?"
-end-
The paper, "Hear them roar: A comparison of black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) and human (Homo sapiens) perception of arousal in vocalizations across all classes of terrestrial vertebrates," was published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology (doi: 10.1037/com0000187).

University of Alberta

Related Elephants Articles:

How do giraffes and elephants alter the African Savanna landscape?
Through their foraging behavior across the diverse topography of the African savanna, megaherbivores may be unknowingly influencing the growth and survival of vegetation on valleys and plateaus, while preserving steep slopes as habitat refugia.
New findings highlight threatened status of forest elephants
Conservation efforts for the African forest elephant have been hindered by how little is known the large animal, according to researchers.
Researchers study elephants' unique interactions with their dead
Stories of unique and sentient interactions between elephants and their dead are a familiar part of the species' lore, but a comprehensive study of these interactions has been lacking -- until now.
A chronicle of giant straight-tusked elephants
About 800,000 years ago, the giant straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon migrated out of Africa and became widespread across Europe and Asia.
Capturing elephants from the wild hinders their reproduction for over a decade
Capturing elephants to keep in captivity not only hinders their reproduction immediately, but also has a negative effect on their calves, according to new research.
Sisters improve chances of reproduction in Asian elephants
Researchers at the University of Turku found that the presence of a maternal sister was positively and significantly associated with annual female reproduction in a population of working elephants in Myanmar.
Future of elephants living in captivity hangs in the balance
Scientists at the University of Sheffield and University of Turku are looking at ways to boost captive populations of Asian elephants without relying on taking them from the wild.
Wildlife tourism may negatively affect African elephants' behavior
Increasing numbers of tourists are interested in observing wildlife such as African elephants, and income generated from tourism potentially aids in the protection of animals and their habitats.
Sex differences in personality traits in Asian elephants
Scientists from the University of Turku, Finland, have found that male and female Asian elephants differ in their personality.
New welfare tool to help improve the lives of elephants in human care
Zoos and safari parks in the UK are using a special new tool to help them more successfully monitor the wellbeing of elephants in their care, thanks to a study led by The University of Nottingham.
More Elephants News and Elephants Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.