Mammals “fake” their body size with a loud or low sound

Some animals, such as red deer, can use sounds to make them appear larger than they really are. This is the well-known scientific fact that was the starting point for bioacoustics specialists Maxime Garcia (University of Zurich) and Andrea Ravinani (Max Planck Institute). Specifically: The sounds these animals produce are at a lower level than you would expect based on their size. Biologists hypothesize that this feigning of larger body sizes is a way to impress females. An accompanying theory states that animals that master this trick are also good at what’s called “vocal learning,” that is, imitating sounds. Thus this ability to learn would be an unambiguous systematic evolutionary pattern.

Garcia and Ravenani noted this in their studies of association in a variety of mammals. But they also found that quite a few “smart learners” – dolphins, whales, seals … – appear not less than their size suggests, but slightly higher. “So an alternative evolutionary scenario is possible, where selection pressure favors animals that can switch from low to high.” In addition, in animals that do the opposite, their ability to have a low voice can only be explained by anatomical factors. A longer nose, for example. There are exceptions, of course, admit to vivid acoustics, and we’re certainly not saying all is well vocal learners It may sound higher than it appears. But we see a general trend, which can help us better describe vocal communication in mammals. With all the possible consequences and new ideas involved regarding the evolution of the human ability to speak.

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