Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Meerkats recognize each other from their calls

Date:
October 31, 2011
Source:
University of Zurich
Summary:
Wild meerkats living in the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa recognize group members from their calls, behavior researchers have established for the first time. The researchers assume that meerkats can tell the individual group members apart.

Wild meerkats living in the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa.
Credit: UZH

Wild meerkats living in the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa recognize group members from their calls, behavior researchers at the University of Zurich have established for the first time. The researchers assume that meerkats can tell the individual group members apart.

Recognizing other individuals from their voices is second nature to humans. Certain primates also have this ability. Whether other mammals that live in social groups are also able to do so, however, is unclear. Like with primates, vocal communication is vital for meerkats. They coordinate their activities with calls, such as to warn other group members of approaching predators, for instance, and thus stick together as a group. Behavior biologists from the University of Zurich have already managed to decipher many calls in meerkat communication. Now, however, they have become the first to establish that meerkats are able to distinguish individual calls.

Vocal recognition

Behavior biologists from the University of Zurich simulated the simultaneous presence of a group member in two different places in a novel playback experiment on wild meerkats in the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa. Meerkats were played two different calls from the same group member one after the other. This physically impossible scenario was contrasted with a physically possible scenario where the meerkats heard calls from two different group members. According to the researcher in charge, Simon Townsend, the meerkats responded more strongly to the impossible scenario than to calls from two different individuals. The scientists concluded that meerkats can tell the individual members of a group apart from their calls.

Differentiated distinction

Meerkat colonies are highly organized and essentially divide their work into three roles: lookouts, hunters and babysitters. Until now, we had assumed that meerkats assigned their conspecific counterparts to these groups but do not differentiate them from one another. With this experiment, however, the behavior biologists have proved this assumption wrong. In both scenarios, calls from an equal-ranking group member were used. "We take it that meerkats can tell the individual group members apart. However, we don't yet know which cognitive mechanisms underlie this ability. Or whether the ability to tell group members apart is merely linked to auditory cues," says Townsend.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Zurich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. W. Townsend, C. Allen, M. B. Manser. A simple test of vocal individual recognition in wild meerkats. Biology Letters, 2011; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0844

Cite This Page:

University of Zurich. "Meerkats recognize each other from their calls." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013085110.htm>.
University of Zurich. (2011, October 31). Meerkats recognize each other from their calls. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013085110.htm
University of Zurich. "Meerkats recognize each other from their calls." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013085110.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. 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