6. Parrots are not just mindless mimics. Owners can teach them human language, with the parrots understanding the meaning of specific words, suggests Jonathan Balcombe, a senior research scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Balcombe told Discovery News that language-trained parrots have communicated food favorites, as well as what tastes bad, to their owners.
7. Orangutans act out incredibly detailedscenarios with their bodies. “Of course what orangutans do isn’t up to Marcel Marceau," says Anne Russon, a Glendon College professor of psychology. "But they can certainly fake their own bodily signals, the essence of pantomime, and that opens up a much richer world of communication than we have believed possible."
8. Researchers have yet to fully decipher whale calls and songs, but this communication appears to be infused with detail. It's known that whales have separate vocalizations formating, feeding and other activities. Body language is also important.
Luke Rendell, alecturer in the School of Biology at the University of St. Andrews, and colleagues studied humpback whales off the coast of New England. “Our study really shows how vital cultural transmission is in humpback populations -- not only do they learn their famous songs from each other, they also learn feeding techniques that allow them to buffer the effects of changing ecology,” Rendell told Discovery News.
9. Kimberley Pollard, a researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA, and colleague Daniel Blumstein examined prairie dogs and other rodent species. The researchers found that prairie dogs all have unique voices.
“Differences in rodent voices are much like differences in human voices,” explained Pollard. “Some animals’ voices are high-pitched, others are low. Some voices are clear, others are more scratchy. Individual animals also have different timbre and use different patterns of emphasis. Each call has an animal’s unique vocal stamp on it.”
10. Bonobos often yell out what they think of their food, with the exclamations sounding similar to those of human sounds, such as “Yum!” and “Ewww.” Klaus Zuberbühler, a professor in the School of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews, and colleague Zanna Clay found this out after testing bonobos on various foods. Figs and raisins got a lot of “Yum!” comments from the bonobos. Bell peppers received “Ewwws.”
The scientists now think there might be a basic, universal primate call structure. Talking to the animals a la Dr. Doolittle might therefore be part of our genetic makeup.