Mating Calls Bare More Than Desire

Courtship 'song' of desert creatures conveys complex info
By Victoria Floethe,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2009 4:52 AM CST

Like human songs, animal calls are said to spur courtship, but what exactly does each wail and snort signify? To find out, a pair of Tel Aviv zoologists studied the mating songs of furry little rock hyraxes in the Judean desert. The researchers found that male hyrax courtship "songs" not only express desire, but give potential mates a rundown of all vital stats like weight, health and social status, reports the Economist.

The male hyrax begins by wailing to reveal his weight, then "chucks" to convey body length and stress level. He wraps it up by snorting, signaling his hormone level and pelt quality. Whether this reveals why humans sing is unclear, but it would make sense—after all, a man's anatomy does determine the size of his voice, say researchers. That's "something to think about when next you are tempted to sing in the bath," the Economist notes. (More hyrax stories.)

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