Moo, Y'all: Many Animals Have Regional Accents

From The Little Mermaid's Jamaican-tongued Sebastian to the surfer-dude drawl of Finding Nemo's Crush, animals with distinctive accents are the bread-and-butter of children's movies. Well, it turns out that Disney's depiction of animals with unique ways of speaking may not be that far from the truth. According to researchers, some species of animals have distinct regional accents.

What Does The Fox Say?

Just like humans, there are unique ways that certain species "speak" that relates to the location in which they were raised. Whales, for instance. The specific clicking patterns that whales use to communicate are known as "codas." Shane Gero, researcher at Aarhus University in Denmark and founder of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project, observed sperm whale communication in the Caribbean for six years and found that many of the codas they used were unique to their particular regional groups. A whale from one region could tell that another whale came from a different region, just from the sound of their clicking pattern.

In another study, researchers used computer algorithms to analyze 2,000 different howls of dogs, coyotes, and various species of wolves. They were able to categorize them into 21 howl types based on the contrasts in steady tones and how the howls would shift up and down. They found that each species has its own distinctive howl.

Some other animals that researchers have found to use unique dialects are monkeys, cows, and birds. There are even species of songbirds that learn different songs based on where they were raised!

Whale Hello There

Animal speech is a pretty amazing thing. Humpback whales can sing for up to 30 minutes at a time. Dolphins can call each other by name and cooperate to solve problems. Orcas can even learn to speak dolphin, according to recent research.

But why does it matter if some birds tweet and some cows moo in different accents? Well for one, studying these dialects could show us the way our own language has evolved. We are all social creatures after all! Conservation can also benefit from these findings. By comparing the similarities and differences of these animals' accents, scientists may be able to better manage the populations of endangered species.

Do Animals Laugh?

Written by Sam Suarez June 20, 2017

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