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Wolf Species Exhibit Related 'Howling Dialects'

Update Date: Feb 09, 2016 03:53 PM EST
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Your dog could belong to the "canid" family of species, which is part of the family of wolves and jackals. Some of the species and subspecies emit "unique, distinguished howling" that are taken to be "vocal fingerprints." The types of howls vary in regularity. It all depends on the canid species, according to a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge.

They conducted the largest ever study on howling.

With computer algorithms, the team probed the howls of 13 species. There were over 2,000 howls that were classified into 21 howl types, varying in pitch and fluctuation. The frequency with which the various howls are used can be linked to particular species of canid and also the subspecies of wolf. Hence, timber wolves have a howling range that sounds "heavy with low, flat howls". On the other hand, the endangered red wolves emit "high, looping howls".

While all the species displayed unique howls, a few species did display similarities in their vocal signatures that might encourage interbreeding but threaten their survival.

The study can help us to manage wild wolf populations and also provide clues to the "origins and evolution" of our language.

"Wolves may not be close to us taxonomically, but ecologically their behaviour in a social structure is remarkably close to that of humans. That's why we domesticated dogs - they are very similar to us," Arik Kershenbaum, lead researcher of the project, said in a press release.

"Understanding the communication of existing social species is essential to uncovering the evolutionary trajectories that led to more complex communication in the past, eventually leading to our own linguistic ability," he added.

The study is available online before the March release in Behavioural Processes.

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