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Animal Vocalizations

August 28, 2014

Many animal vocalizations are highly complex.



Orang family singapore zoo chem 7 flickr

Orangutan family at the Singapore Zoo. (chem7/Flickr)

Making sense of animal sounds. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Human speech includes thousands of languages, with the power to express countless thoughts and emotions. Bird and mammal vocalizations are much simpler, but perhaps not as far from human speech as scientists once thought. Arik Kershenbaum is a researcher at the National Center for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. He analyzed the vocalizations of seven chatty species, including finches, bats, pilot whales and orangutans and found they were surprisingly complex.

ARIK KERSHENBAUM (National Center for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis):

In fact, they were more consistent with a more complex statistical process that has more language-like characteristics. So our conclusions might make it easier to understand how language could have evolved in so short a time from its animal origins, which may not have been quite as simple as we thought they were.


He says the animal studies are helping researchers understand the evolution of human speech. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the Science Society.