Researcher Decodes Prairie Dog Language, Turns Out They’ve Been Talking About Us

Posted: September 5, 2016 in Animals, Nature, Science, Things I Love

Prairie Dogs, man. When Lewis and Clark made their epic journey across the undiscovered American West these little rascals fascinated the bejesus out of them. They even took a couple back to Thomas Jefferson, who gazed upon it with shock and awe. And boy, if those bros back in the day only know what we know now. Read on readers . . .

You might not think it to look at them, but prairie dogs and humans are prairiedogactually a lot alike. As it turns out, prairie dogs actually have one of the most sophisticated forms of vocal communication in the natural world.

Who knew? Well, my man Dr. Con Slobodchikoff did first. Cool name, amirite? After more than 25-years of studying the calls of the prairie dog, this cat managed to figure out exactly what the animals are saying. Amazingly, his findings show that prairie dogs aren’t only intelligent communicators, they also pay close attention to detail.

Dr. Slobodchikoff used his vocalization analysis on prairie dogs in Arizona and New Mexico and found that the chirps these animals use as ‘alert calls’ are actually word-like packages of information to share with the rest of the colony. Amazingly, these unique sounds were found to both identify specific threats by species, such as hawks and coyotes, but to also point out descriptive information about their appearance.

And oh, it gets better.

Seems when they’re talking about humans, that might not always be flattering.

From the good doctor:

For example, a human alarm call not only contains information about the intruder being a human, but also contains information about the size, shape (thin or fat), and color of clothes the human is wearing. When we do an experiment where the same person walks out into a prairie dog colony wearing different colored t-shirts at different times, the prairie dogs will have alarm calls that contain the same description of the person’s size and shape, but will vary in their description of the color.”

What the hell? Animals, man. Prairie Dogs just making fun of fat guys and ugly people like it ain’t no thing. Diabolical.

If you’re intrigued by this sort of thing do yourself a favor and research Dr. Slobodchikoff. He’s been a pioneer in the field of animal communication, discovering complex language systems in a variety of other species as well.

Here’s a thought. Maybe we, as humans, will begin to change our perspective on our place in the world. The fact is, we’re finding more and more that ours is not the only voice to be heard.

Radical, but rational, right?

"Check out the fat dude in the Hawaiian shirt. Ghastly."

“Check out the fat dude in the Hawaiian shirt. Ghastly.”


Gimme a holler.

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