Show Details

Giant Beaver Sounds

November 30, 2011

The giant beaver went extinct about 10,000 years ago, but it left behind clues to the sounds it may have used to communicate with.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

An extinct beaver’s voice? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(SFX: Sound of giant beaver skull)

Could giant beavers in ancient North America have made a sound like this one? It’s produced by blowing air through a chamber in the extinct rodents’ huge skulls, suggesting that the they may have used the structure to communicate. Vertebrate paleontologist Caroline Rinaldi of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine says the creatures were the size of black bears. They lacked the chisel-shaped teeth of modern beavers, so they probably didn’t build dams, but they did live in the water.

CAROLINE RINALDI (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine):

Being able to produce a sound that can be carried above and below the water we think this would be of evolutionary benefit to an animal like a giant beaver.

HIRSHON:

Nonetheless, the beavers went extinct about 10,000 years ago.

RINALDI:

Along with other large mammals like mammoths and saber-toothed cats and wild horses that lived in North America.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.


Giant beaver skeleton, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago (C. Horwitz/Wikipedia)