Pretty much everyone has seen the Disney movie, The Lion King,Hyenas where the animals that lived in the graveyard were always laughing about something. Hyenas are known for their constant giggling but could it actually have a significance? Research has shown that there is actually a system behind these constant giggles.
Frédéric Theunissen, from the University of California at Berkeley, USA, and Nicolas Mathevon, from the Université Jean Monnet, St. Etienne, France lead a research team at a Berkley field station where they observed the behavior of Hyenas. Science Daily quotes one of the researchers Theunissen,"The hyena's laugh gives receivers cues to assess the social rank of the emitting individual. This may allow hyenas to establish feeding rights and organize their food-gathering activities." Here he describes that the laughter may actually have social meaning.
One thing they found is that the pitch of the laughter describes the age of that hyena. Aside from the actual pitches of the laughter, the spacing between each noise can tell what the social status is of that particular hyena. These qualities can be important when interacting with other hyenas especially when it involves food. When a group of hyenas are competing for a particular food source revealing that they are older and of higher priority could help then win the fight for the food.This laughter can be started by an individual out of purely expressing their emotions. Theunissen and his team believe that groups of hyenas interact using these signals and can choose whether or not to join the group.
I'l admit I'm not one to jump on the opportunity of studying animals but, I find the animal behavior of these animals very interesting. It is amazing how just a "laughter" to us can mean so much in the animal world.I'm now wondering how many other species have communication systems like this?
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The Science Behind Hyneas' Laughter
Posted by Peter Houlihan at 8:02 PM
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This is one of my favorite movies so I cannot help but to be intrigued. That movie makes me believe that hyenas have similar laughs to humans and are evil and live in fire burning caves. I recently saw a hyena on a safari ride in Africa this summer and I was expecting to hear a laugh from them! It is interesting how the hyenas use their laugh to establish feeding rights and to organize their food gathering activities, also how their laugh’s pitch can determine how old the hyena is. I agree that the animal behavior of hyenas is really interesting and I would like to learn more about this.ReplyDelete
Posted by Amanda Makowski
Hyena are unique animals especially when it comes to their social behavior. they even know who is the boss in their clan and who is not.ReplyDelete
Posted by Anna Moreno
I never knew there was so much more to a hyena's laugh. Some animal behaviors can be extremely difficult to understand. The fact that researchers were able to find out how their laugh gives receivers cues to assess the social ranks of the emitting individual is really amazing.ReplyDelete
Posted by Ryan Brooks
I was always under the impression that hyenas would only laugh if they were scared or threatened. It's a pretty interesting find after reading this article and it actually makes much sense. Take humans for instance. When we're young our voices are generally high pitched overall and our grammar is quite off. As we grow older our voices deepen and we are more fluent at producing our own speech. So it's no surprise when you find the same trend in other animals.ReplyDelete
Posted by Charly Almonte
Charly has a good point about humans voices changing with age.It just shows how different species are more alike than we think.I too thought before this article that hyenas were angry animals that had a creepy laugh. I thought it was just there thing. Dogs bark, cows moo, I thought hyenas laughed. It is amazing to find out that there is a meaning behind everything in nature.ReplyDelete
I have learned about other types of animal communication such as bird and frog calls but this is the first time I have heard of research of hyenas. It would make sense that their laughter has some sort of evolution driven purpose like signaling rank or organizing activities. It is really interesting that the pitch can be representative of the age of the individual. If you look into the meanings of certain calls or noises there is usually a reason for it or else they would be wasting useful energy. In some sparrows, I believe the rate of the trill they sing is representative of their sexual fitness so the faster they sing the healthier and more desirable they are to mates.ReplyDelete
Posted by Asia Barnes
I must admit I am not completely impressed that the only significant relationship discovered was between the age of the individual and the pitch of its call. The fact that the researcher could make any sense of the seemingly primitive giggle, though, is amazing. But I think a number of organisms’ calls change in pitch as they age. In humans, for example, a child, adult, and elderly person generally have very distinct vocal sounds. This is the case in dogs too, as puppies and full grown dogs often have different barks. In these cases the pitch change is indicative of physical differences in vocal chords and such. I would like to know to what degree they can actually tell the age based on the call in this study. If they can tell within a few years, I would be more impressed, but if the call only indicates between young and old hyena, the discovery would leave me discontent.ReplyDelete
Posted by Matt Grazewski
Honestly, the first thing I am going to do after reading this is look up what a hyena laugh sounds like. Of course I remember the laugh from the lion king, but is this laugh a kind of call for mammals. It is a bit dissapoining that the only correlation they have shown to the laugh is age and acceptance, but acceptance is huge in hyenas. Since they do not kill their own food, those of lower status are less likely to starve. I guess I am left wondering if young can work on their call or if it is genetically predisposed to be of a lower or higher status.ReplyDelete
Posted by Amanda Hostetter