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 April 23, 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 April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) One Florida fisherman caught a 805-pound shark off the coast of Florida earlier this month. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

AP (Apr. 21, 2014) Breakfast is now being served with a side of sticker shock. The cost of morning staples like bacon, coffee and orange juice is on the rise because of global supply problems. (April 21) Video provided by AP
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