Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Even in a crowd, individuals remain unique, rodent vocalization study finds

Date:
February 22, 2011
Source:
University of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
Paradoxically, being part of a crowd is what makes you unique, life scientists report. Researchers examined the evolution of individuality -- personal uniqueness -- by recording alarm-call vocalizations in eight species of rodents that live in social groups of various sizes. They found that the size of the groups strongly predicted the individual uniqueness in the animals' voices: The bigger the group, the more unique each animal's voice typically was and the easier it was to tell individuals apart.

Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in Phillips County, Montana.
Credit: Kimberly Pollard

It may seem paradoxical, but being part of a crowd is what makes you unique, according to UCLA life scientists.

Biologists Kimberly Pollard and Daniel Blumstein examined the evolution of individuality -- personal uniqueness -- by recording alarm-call vocalizations in eight species of rodents that live in social groups of various sizes. They found that the size of the groups strongly predicted the individual uniqueness in the animals' voices: The bigger the group, the more unique each animal's voice typically was and the easier it was to tell individuals apart.

Their research will be published as the cover article in the March 8 print issue of the journal Current Biology and is now available online.

The findings -- resulting from six years of research by Blumstein, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA, and Pollard, who conducted the research as a doctoral student in Blumstein's laboratory -- may help explain a fact critical to the everyday lives of humans and other social creatures: why everybody is different.

The reason, the researchers say, is due to a "Where's Waldo" effect in which it is difficult to pick one individual out of a crowd, and the bigger the crowd, the harder it is.

"But humans and other social creatures can't just give up when crowds get large," said Pollard, the study's lead author. "We still must be able to identify our friends, our family and our rivals within that crowd."

The species that had to contend with bigger crowds did so with more unique voices, the researchers found. The larger the social group, the easier it was to tell any two individual animals apart.

"Nature has solved the 'Where's Waldo' problem by endowing highly social creatures with more unique features, which helps them find their pals in the crowd," said Pollard, currently a postdoctoral scholar at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Maryland.

And if social species -- like humans, for example -- were to evolve to consistently live in larger and larger groups, this would likely set the stage for the evolution of even greater individuality, the researchers predict.

"The number of individuals that humans must recognize seems to be growing, especially as we become more globally connected and as social groups become less clearly defined," Pollard said. "This is probably increasing the evolutionary pressure on our own individuality.

"This research helps to explain something that is such a core, critical part of our daily experience -- our own uniqueness as individuals," she said. "Our results shed light on the underlying evolutionary reasons why we are all so different."

Pollard's research was funded by the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program, as well as other scientific organizations.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. The original article was written by Stuart Wolpert. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Los Angeles. "Even in a crowd, individuals remain unique, rodent vocalization study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110222162322.htm>.
University of California - Los Angeles. (2011, February 22). Even in a crowd, individuals remain unique, rodent vocalization study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110222162322.htm
University of California - Los Angeles. "Even in a crowd, individuals remain unique, rodent vocalization study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110222162322.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. 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