Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Giggles give clues to hyena's social status

Date:
April 1, 2010
Source:
University of California - Berkeley
Summary:
The giggle call of the spotted hyena tells other hyenas not only the age and identity of the animal, but also its social status, according to a new study.

A spotted hyena carrying the spine of an antelope giggles as it avoids a higher-ranking group-mate. The picture was taken by a research team led by Kay Holekamp of Michigan State University.
Credit: Eli. M. Swanson/Michigan State University

While dominant hyenas have a steady, confident-sounding giggle, subordinate ones produce a more variable call, allowing the animals to keep track of their social hierarchy, according to a new University of California, Berkeley, study.

In the first analysis of the giggle call of the spotted, or "laughing," hyena, UC Berkeley researchers show that these calls convey not only information about social status, but also about the age -- the pitch goes down as the hyena gets older -- and identity of each individual animal.

Among hyenas, however, where hypermasculinized females dominate males and there is a strict hierarchy among all animals of a clan, the key message conveyed by the variety of giggles produced by different animals and in different behavioral contexts may well be social stature.

"The giggles of Kombo and Kadogo, two dominant animals, are more steady: he -- he -- he -- he. Whereas those of Winnie and Ursa, two subordinate animals, are more variable: he hi -- ha -- he," said Frédéric E. Theunissen, UC Berkeley professor of psychology.

Hyenas giggle when they are in a conflict or stressful situation, such as when lions mob them and chase them away from a kill, or when a dominant and subordinate hyena tussle over a carcass, Theunissen said.

"Giggles are a series of short staccato outbursts they make when they are not getting what they want," he said. "In the vocalizations of subordinate animals, there is a level of frustration or stress that comes through in the variability of the giggles, whereas the dominant animals have a more steady and confident giggle. This information could be used by other hyenas in the clan to assess whether or not to collaborate with the animal producing the calls. It could also send a submissive signal to a dominant animal that is the object of the conflict."

The findings were published on March 30, in the open-access journal BMC Ecology.

Theunissen discovered the hidden meaning of hyena giggling by recording hyena vocalizations during feeding time at UC Berkeley's 26-member-strong colony and then analyzing the changing pitch on the recordings. Using similar techniques, he has also studied vocalizations in the zebra finch.

"Each animal has a different voice quality that makes it identifiable even when you hear only one note of its giggle," he said.

He hopes to do further studies in the wild, though this can be difficult because the giggles are taken up by other members of the group, making it hard to determine who giggled what.

"It's fascinating working with these animals, and not only because of their unusual social interactions," Theunissen said. "They are just unique, loud, amazing animals."

The work was conducted at the UC Berkeley hyena colony by Theunissen and Nicolas Mathevon, a former Visiting Miller Professor at UC Berkeley who is now at the Université de Saint-Etienne, France. Their colleagues included Aaron Koralek of UC Berkeley's Wills Neuroscience Institute; Mary Weldele of the campus's departments of psychology and of integrative biology; and Stephen E. Glickman, UC Berkeley professor of psychology and of integrative biology.

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and UC Berkeley's Miller Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Berkeley. The original article was written by Robert Sanders, Media Relations. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nicolas Mathevon, Aaron Koralek, Mary Weldele, Stephen E Glickman, Frédéric E Theunissen. What the hyena's laugh tells: Sex, age, dominance and individual signature in the giggling call of Crocuta crocuta. BMC Ecology, 2010; 10 (1): 9 DOI: 10.1186/1472-6785-10-9

Cite This Page:

University of California - Berkeley. "Giggles give clues to hyena's social status." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331091149.htm>.
University of California - Berkeley. (2010, April 1). Giggles give clues to hyena's social status. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331091149.htm
University of California - Berkeley. "Giggles give clues to hyena's social status." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331091149.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) — An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) — The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:  

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile iPhone Android Web
          Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins