DISCOVERED - THE LANGUAGE OF HYENAS
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In a study aimed at understanding the complex communications between hyenas – the first of its kind - a group of American scientists have managed to uncover some of the hidden meanings behind their so-called ‘laugh’. By recording Hyena calls in various social interactions - such as when they are competing over food - they have managed to establish some of the elements of each call and how they correspond to the pack in general.
It has been found that the giggling sound of a hyena not only provides important information about the animal's status, but that the pitch of a giggle can reveals the hyena's age. Furthermore, variations in the frequency of notes used will also convey information about the animal's social rank.
Professor Theunissen from the University of California at Berkeley had this to say in regards to these new findings:
‘...the hyena's laugh gives receivers cues to assess the social rank of the emitting individual. This may allow hyenas to establish feeding rights and organise their food-gathering activities...’
The research suggests that hyenas communicate these signals usually while fighting over food. Previously their sounds had been considered to be a simple gesture of submission, but this new study involving 26 captive spotted hyenas has allowed researchers to identify exactly which hyena made each giggle, and the circumstances in which it did so.
The information contained within the giggles could be especially important for new males entering the clan as they will automatically go to the bottom of the hierarchy. However, understanding the hierarchy within a pack will give these new individuals a better chance of improving their own status.
Details of the US-based study are published in the journal BMC Ecology.
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