A new study has uncovered that wolves have over 2,000 howling dialects that can be differentiated across several species and subspecies. Perhaps this will be another study to aid conservation efforts.
- Researchers perused through thousands of records and 13 different wolf species
- They found that there are 21 howl types and over 2,000 “accents” across different species and subspecies
- By unveiling more details about their vocal fingerprints, they hope to uncover more about the evolutionary path of human linguistics
Researchers from the University of Cambridge suggested that there are different “accents” and “dialects” between different species of canines. They examined recorded howls from both wild wolves and wolves
in captivity the United States, Europe, India, and Australia. The initial database consisted of a whopping 6,000 recordings, but it was narrowed down to 2,000 for the purpose of the study.
However, the researchers covered the howling of 13 species of wolves and combed through various YouTube videos to capture the pitches of domesticated dog wolves for comparison. Their efforts led them to finding 21 howl types that stretched to over 2,000 dialects across different species. They managed to capture the differences in pitches between wolves, coyotes, dogs, and several of their subspecies.
For example, the timber wolf’s howl is heavy with low and flat howls, while the red wolf has high, whining, looping howls. It made it easier for researchers to make the distinction, something that is potentially crucial since the latter is considered a critically endangered species. Perhaps with their technique and technology,
they could better detect what sort of calls are being made between packs and by what kinds of wolves.
Unlike previous studies, they did not take the recordings and interpreted the soundwaves themselves. Instead, they fed them into a machine with an algorithm at the ready to study the differences. The highly objective system led them to the discovery. It provided an exceptional insight into the behavior of wolves, and might even aid in solving the mystery of our own evolution of human dialects.
According to lead author of the study, Dr. Arik Kershenbaum, wolves may not be taxonomically close to us, but ecologically they have a similar behavior in social structures. In fact, from that standpoint, “they [the wolves] are very similar to us”. He cites that as a reason as to why we domesticated dogs in the first place. Understanding these existing forms of communication and social behavior among animals might be essential to answering questions about such evolutionary trajectories.
Perhaps, eventually, it would lead to more clues unveiled about the evolution of our own linguistic abilities.
In the meantime, Dr. Kershenbaum and his team will be working in Yellowstone National Park, trying to use recording devices to pick up the location of howls. And, hopefully, through the recordings, they might understand if the sounds are either simple distant communication or pack warnings.
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