Prairie Dogs Can Talk, Says Scientist
What would happen if we discovered another intelligent species? According to Con Slobodchikoff, we already have; prairie dogs can talk using a language more sophisticated than any other animal ever studied. Would it alter the manner in which we could use the land occupied by the individuals of that species? Science fiction writer H. Beam Piper wrote a great novel exploring the topic.
(Prairie Dog Contemplates His Domain)
Most people listening to prairie dog chatter describes it as a series of yips, high-pitched barks or eeks. However, according to Dr. Slobodchikoff, Professor of Biology at Northern Arizona University, prairie dogs are capable of referential communication. They have:
Prairie dogs are able to use adjectives to differentiate objects, including human beings. For example, they can describe the color of clothes on a human and whether he is tall or short. They can also describe how fast a man is moving or whether he is carrying a gun. And there’s evidence that the animals can remember that specific person for up to two months.
- different alarm calls for different species of predators
- different escape behaviors for different species of predators
- transmission of semantic information, in that playbacks of alarm calls in the absence of predators lead to escape behaviors that are appropriate to the kind of predator who elicited the alarm calls
- alarm calls containing descriptive information about the general size, color, and speed of travel of the predator.
Prairie dog colonies appear to have unique dialects, much like New Yorkers sound different from Southerners. But researchers believe the basic language is the same. That is, a prairie dog from Arizona could talk to a prairie dog from New Mexico. And that's comforting.
In his marvelous 1962 novel Little Fuzzy, science fiction author H. Beam Piper explores a newly-discovered planet called Zarathustra. A sunstone prospector named Jack Holloway discovers an interesting new species of animal on the planet - he calls them "little fuzzies":
...something inside the drawer said Yeeeeek! in a startled voice.
He turned quickly, to see two wide eyes staring up at him out of a ball of golden fur. Whatever it was, it had a round head and big ears and a vaguely humanoid face with a little snub nose. It was sitting on its haunches, and int that position it was about a foot high...
(From The Fuzzy Papers)
The novel closely examines a variety of ways to distinguish an intelligent, sapient species from animals. It's particularly important on Zarathustra, because the planet is owned by a corporation that holds its charter by virture of the (presumed) fact that the planet has no native intelligent species. This is a great book, well worth reading.
(Prairie Dog Rapture by Anthony Falbo)
Find out more about prairie dogs at the Prairie Dog Information site.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/5/2005)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 23 )
Related News Stories -
Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?' - Richard Morgan, 2003.
TMS Decreases Belief In God, Increases Belief In Immigrants
'... Setting up the same currents, the same basic ideas, in them all.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1938.
Blockchain Used To Verify Election Results
'Any adult could punch into the phone his or her code, followed by a yes or no.' - John Brunner, 1975.
We Could Downgrade Puerto Rico - And Thereby Save It
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.' - John Brunner, 1976.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Swarm Of Mindless Robots Works Together
'Very tiny pseudo insects that... can unite to form a superordinate system.'
SpotMini Robot Dog, Autonomous And On Sale In 2019
Great, an autonomous slamhound. It is cute, though.
RoboFly Is Laser-Powered, Adorable
Don't swat this fly!
MSG Sphere Las Vegas, ala Star Wars
'The smoky globe, hung in the vault, was shot with colored light...'
Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...
MIT Ampli Blocks Build Biomedical Devices
Damn it Spock, I'm a doctor not an engineer!
UberAIR Asks For Skytaxi Landing Prototypes
You know you want to ride in one.
Boring Tunnel Almost Ready
Your underground future is calling!
Handheld Human Skin Printer
It outputs a thin wad of uniflesh.
Healthy Fast Food Courtesy Of Robot Chefs
'The electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.'
Mass Production Of In Vitro Meat From One Sample
They're Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing
Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.
Retinal Prosthesis Uses Organic Printing Inks
We can rebuild you - well, your eyes, maybe.
Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.
Squid-Like Robots Soon To Be 3D Printable
'It was a chemotactic artificial jellyfish designed to slither...'
Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories