Prairie Dog Language

I should have seen this.  Five years ago I linked the development oflarge social groups with the development of human language.  One supported the other.  This factor is now been more and more recognizedin wild populations such as crows in particular.

Now we come to the much larger prairiedog brain and the use of large communal colonies. Their descriptive language isobviously quite powerful and this report indicates greater than 100 words.  Yet recall that 100 words are sufficient toanchor you in any human language.  Thatis enough to make thirty percent known and the balance on the way to beenintelligible.

Here we discover that a prairie dogcan call out a description of an intruder which is rather valuable information.  It gives us no information of ordinarycommunication needs but suggests that is way more developed here than wouldseem likely.

It is interesting that abstractshapes are also described.  A lot of easyassumptions and bad guesses just got trashed and we will have to revisit everyspecies to properly observe their modes of communication.

Prairie dogs have a language all of their own and 'can describe whathumans look like'

Last updated at 5:49 PM on 21st January 2011

It's a language that would twist the tongue of even the mostsophisticated linguist.
Prairie dogs talk to each other and can describe what different humanbeings look like, according to scientists.

The species - only found in North America- call out to warn their friends when a predator approaches their habitat.

Rodent species: Prairie dogs - only found in North America - call out to warn their friends when a predatorapproaches their habitat, scientists believe

Not only that, but they have calls for 'human', one for 'hawk' andanother for 'coyote', radio station NPR reports.

Professor Con Slobodchikoff, of Northern Arizona University, has beenstudying prairie dogs for 30 years.

He is particularly interested in deciphering their language because todo so would 'open the door for understanding how other species communicate'.

The prairie dog's barks, yips and chirping sounds are really asophisticated form of communication that contains a vocabulary of at least 100words, Professor Slobodchikoff claims.

'The little yips prairie dogs make contain a lot of information,' hesaid.

Professor Con Slobodchikoff, of Northern Arizona University, has beenstudying prairie dogs for 30 years

'They can describe details of predators such as their size, shape,colour and how fast they are going.

'They also can discriminate whether an approaching animal is a coyoteor a dog, and they can decipher different types of birds.'

Professor Slobodchikoff and his students hid themselves in prairie dogvillages and recorded the noises the rodents made whenever a human, hawk, dog orcoyote passed through.

What they found was that the prairie dog issues different callsdepending on the intruder. The researchers discovered this by analysing therecorded calls for frequency and tone. 

They concluded that it doesn't have one call for 'danger', rather ithas a collection of warning noises - or a language.

To further develop this line of investigation, Professor Slobodchikoffgathered four volunteers and had them walk through a prairie dog village fourtimes. On each occasion they wore the same clothing, except for differentcolour shirts.

The prairie dogs responded by issuing different calls, depending on thecolour of the volunteers' shirts.

Professor Slobodchikoff then discovered they also issued differentcalls for varying heights, and even for abstract shapes including cardboardcircles, squares and triangles.

He told NPR: 'Essentially they were saying, "Here comes the tallhuman in the blue," versus, "Here comes the short human in theyellow."'

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