Howls, butt sniffs, and pee sprays: understanding animal languages
A few years ago, there was a big announcement: Dolphins are known to each other by their names. Humans also possess a distinct sound they make when they meet new dolphins and call each other. Dolphins aren’t the only animal with terms. Parrots have names given by the parents of their children. Squirrel monkeys have a distinct “chuck” sound for each individual. Bats have characters they use to identify each other to keep their group together during the night. This can be especially useful when you are in a large group. A name is helpful since it lets you call another person and let them know that you are the one calling.
Identity is communicated via something other than voice. Hyenas are in constant social interactions in which females dominate. When they interact, they use scent signals generated by their anal glands. They appear in a variety of 252 arrangements. They create the individual’s profile, which changes with time. The scents can also be rewritten by others in the group, allowing people who are not part of the group to create an accurate image of the people who reside in a particular area–their age as well as gender, fitness, status, mood, and the whole group. In the case of dogs, the smell emanating from the anal glands–every dog owner knows about it–also gives similar profiling. Excreta and urine reveal details about the identity of the dog too. Some dogs in cities that have never interacted exhibit an innate hatred toward one another. Most likely, they’ve long been aware of one another’s existence because of evidence of scent they’ve encountered and can identify a reason for their hostility.
A variety of animals use the scent of urine and excrement. Hippos, for instance, prefer to mark their territory with dung-like rabbits. Lobsters also have tiny tubes beneath their eyes that contain urine which they spray on another face. Males do this when they fight. Lobsters fight regularly and can remember whom they’ve faced. They also keep a mental record of where they live. Only the most vigorous males can mate with females. Female lobsters only get married when they’ve just removed their shells. They spray urine on the male’s face to frighten him and then dance. In mating, the male guards the female, but the male departs once she develops a new shell, and the next female may arrive. Females don’t fight each other.
Like cats, snakes possess Jacobson’s organs. The organ is located on the mouth’s roof, the organ of chemoreception, which makes up the olfactory systems, which animals use to sense smell. The tongues of their mouths collect scent particles, which they place inside Jacobson’s organ, with two openings that allow them to perceive the world around them in stereo. Snakes make use of this to locate prey and predators, as well as to connect with snakes. The trails which their bodies leave behind and the air they travel through contain pheromones that provide information regarding their gender and their, age and if they’re pregnant. Young snakes follow the trail to discover the location of the shared hibernation zone. Puff adders, which are venomous snakes that are primarily found in southern Africa, do not just leave scents for other animals to follow but also disguise their scent to frighten predators. Snakes can also communicate via contact, and some species of cobras have low growls.
Wolves use similar scent signals as dogs. They use the same scent signals. They also can be heard howling. In frequency as well as in harmony, they provide clues to their identities and also about the relationships they have with other wolves. They are known to howl or sing longer and more frequently towards wolves with which they share an enmity. Their howls may communicate information to each other. However, we have yet to determine what exactly. Coyotes sing and share details about their identities and also. The howling sounds of coyotes are also an effective method of calling the members of their group and informing other packs that they are present.
Dingos – Australian feral dogs genetically between wolves and dogs. They can howl and bark simultaneously. They rarely bark, barking less than domestic dogs, and sing less frequently than wolves. It is possible to use howling as an individual issue (to talk about food or to establish the hierarchy). Since sound can travel large distances, it’s an excellent communication method within the Australian wild. Dingos can also sing in groups to express enjoyment, inform other groups, and inform other groups regarding the number of people in the pack without getting into the middle of a fight. If more dingos are singing, their frequency rises.
Within a species various species may have their own dialects. Whale songs vary from one group to the next. Sometimes, whales hear songs that are popular in one group, and then it becomes a cult popular song in the group as well. Parrots are part of communities that range from between 20 and 300 animals that each have their dialect. Parrots that speak the dialects of several groups. The territory that belongs to the White-crowned Sparrows is clearly defined so that if you stand at the border, you can hear a dialect in songs on the left and another one on the right.
Great tits also have dialects, as research has been conducted on transmitting social customs. The captive tits were taught how to use a blue or red door to access a food cage that contained a mealworm, an incredibly delicious food for the birds. The birds were then released into the wild population and quickly learned to obtain the mealworm. Small trackers recorded when birds ate the mealworm and what door they entered through. After a few days, a third of the population knew how it worked, and most of them chose the door shown by the bird first taught. After removing and reinstalling the cage one year later, the birds began with the exact entry. This is quite remarkable, considering that three-fifths of birds in the original population had perished during that time. The scientists think the social norms may also be present in other animals that are part of stable social groups. Behavioral creativity, as well as the transfer of new abilities, aids populations to live.
Scientists have devised this test called the mirror to determine if animals are conscious of who they are or the possibility that they are. The test involves affixing a red dot on the animal’s forehead and placing it in the mirror. If the animal tries to take the bead off the forehead, it indicates self-awareness meaning that animals can identify themselves as they are before the mirror. Chimpanzees, chimps, elephants, pigs, and different animals were proven to possess this sense of self-awareness.
There are some issues regarding the mirror test; however, some animals don’t mind having a sticker put on their bodies. In some cultures, mirrors are not a good idea. The mirror isn’t considered to be good manners. Thirdly, it’s inappropriate for animals with other senses more vital than vision.
The first aspect: Elephants utilize the mud to cool themselves and prevent itching, so they tend not to dislike a tiny object like a sticker on their skin. They thus score poorly in the test of mirrors despite their social intelligence and attitudes. There is a second cultural component in gorillas. They are social animals and are presumed to be self-aware. However, gorillas are usually shy. Long-eye contact isn’t commonplace in their species; they also perform poorly on this test. This same is true for children from non-Western societies. Of 82 children in Kenya, only two passed the test, while Western children can pass the test without exception. The distinction is based on culture rather than cognition. The test is not suitable for animals with sight that could be better. Dogs tend to focus more on smell than sight, and that’s why animal expert Marc Bekoff came up with the test of yellow snow as a variation of the test mirror. Dogs have a world of scents. This led Bekoff to conduct an experiment where he gathered pee from the snow and studied his dog’s reaction. The dog involved, Jethro, spent a considerably shorter time smelling his pee than other dogs, and Jethro was evidently not reacting the same way to the scents of other dogs compared to his own.
These examples prove that there’s more happening in animals’ daily lives than we think. The study of their language could help us understand their private lives. But as the Mirror test shows, there are other issues with research methods built on human capabilities: Human bias can affect our perception of animals. Also, if we examine the different languages of animals based on how closely they are similar to human languages, Many animals will perform poorly. In order to transcend the anthropocentric model, power dynamics in research have to be considered, and we must come up with new methods of analysis in collaboration with animals. To do this, existing concepts like language could be a good starting base.