Friday, 20 April 2012

Wail, Chuck, Snort: Rock Hyraxes Sing Complex Songs

Small mammals called hyraxes "sing" long and complex songs to announce their territory. New research shows these songs are never repeated and have regional dialects, because neighbors tend to steal each other's special vocal twists.

"We aren't claiming they have a language," study researcher Arik Kershenbaum, of the University of Haifa, in Israel, told LiveScience. "But they are showing some of the characteristics that are essential for true language."

The rock hyrax is a small, sturdy mammal that lives in Africa and the Middle East and, strangely enough, is a relative of the elephant. It eats plants and possibly bugs and lives in small groups, usually dominated by one male. This male has a tendency to stand up and shout — singing songs that are complex and can go on for "a number of minutes," Kershenbaum said.

The songs also seem to be a form of self-advertisement, kind of like birdsong.

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