Friday, February 17, 2012

Goats 'can develop their own accents'

Goats can develop their own unique accents accent from their surroundings, a British study has suggested. Researchers found the animals develop their own speaking voice when they move away from their siblings and mingle with others. They found that a goats' "accent' changed as they grew older and moved in different groups, disproving claims that their voices were entirely genetic. The team, from Queen Mary University of London, said their findings are the first to suggest that most mammals can develop an accent from their surroundings.

Previously, only a select group of mammals including humans, elephants and dolphins were thought to be able to pick up an accent. Experts assumed that other species' "voices" were dictated by genetics and not their surroundings. The findings have caused great excitement in the science community amid suggestions that "if goats can do it, maybe all mammals accents can be affected by their surroundings".

YouTube link.

"We found that genetically related kids produced similar calls, which is not that surprising," said Dr Elodie Briefer, who led the study. But the calls of kids raised in the same social groups were also similar to each other, and became more similar as the kids grew older. This suggests that goat kids modify their calls according their social surroundings, developing similar 'accents'." Asked whether the same could be true of other mammals, she added: "Nobody has ever looked at that and whether there's something in the environment that could affect their accent when they're young.

"We don't know, because people are so sure there's no effect of the environment that no-one has checked. But if goats can do it maybe all mammals' accents could be affected by their environment." Dr Alan McElligot, a co-author, added: "The existence of vocal plasticity in mammals such as goats reveals a possible early pathway in the evolution of vocal. The research also highlights the important cognitive abilities that some of our domestic animals possess, and which have remained undetected until now. Improved knowledge of their behaviour and cognition provides essential information for improving animal welfare."


Ratz said...

Cows are also supposed to develop regional accents:

Gareth said...

Regional accents in animals are far from uncommon. Apparently bats have local accents and over pretty short distances. A few years ago a study found that Lancastrian bats had a different "accent" from that of Yorkshire bats. The distance between the colonies was only a few miles.