"Surely you've noticed," says Eyder Peralta at NPR, "that when people move from place to place and stay for a while, they tend to pick up the local accent." Apparently, the same is true for goats. A new study from Queen Mary University in London suggests that — like whales, dolphins, and bats — goats modify the sounds they make in order to fit in with their immediate environment. Here, a brief guide to the research:
Wait. Goats talk to one another?
Not in so many words. But they "are social animals that live in groups, and make 'contact calls' to one another to stay in touch," says Wynne Parry at LiveScience. Young goats, known as "kids," pick up these bleats from the other members of their social circle. It's a "rudimentary form of vocal learning."
And scientists tested these goats for accents?
Sort of. Researchers tested the "vocal repertoire" of several kids when they were one week old, and again four weeks later. When first tested, the kids did not sound much like other members of their group. After five weeks, however, the kids demonstrated sound structures more in line with the group's "accent."
What does a goat accent sound like?
A particular group may bleat at a higher pitch, or at a faster pace, than other herds of goats. Listen to an example here.
Why do goats have accents?
Researchers say these regionally-differentiated calls allow members to better identify with their group, increasing the herd's cohesion and functioning as a "member badge." This is particularly important for goats, as opposed to other animals, "because they live in complex social groups that split during the day and come back together at night."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 4 simple steaks you can cook in a pan
- 400,000 Americans marched for climate justice. Now what?
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Save the world... by changing how you pee
- Does solar energy have a battery problem?
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Why does Fareed Zakaria still have a job?
Subscribe to the Week