Naked mole rats adopt the accent of their queen

Naked mole rat colonies develop accents in the sounds they make, which help them distinguish between friend and foe. These dialects are influenced by the queen of the colony and differ when she dies.

Naked mole rats (Heterocephalus) to be Very noisy animals Those who live in colonies where the queen is the only one to give birth to young. She wanted Alison Parker of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Germany and her colleagues To investigate How the sounds that naked mole rats make help maintain their social fabric. That’s why they recorded more than 36,000 welcome votes from 166 naked mice rats from seven colonies in laboratories in Germany and South Africa.

Unique voice

First, the scientists recorded the acoustic properties of these sounds, such as pitch, highest frequency and duration. Then they used sounds to train the machine learning algorithm.

This algorithm not only succeeded in identifying individuals in the colony. It can also predict with high accuracy from which colony a particular animal originated. This indicates that individuals from each colony have a unique voice and share an accent.

In another experiment, he found that naked mole rats responded more often to recordings of their dialects than they did to recordings of other dialects. This indicates that they are getting to know each other by shouting and responding.

The animals also responded to artificial peeps that have the same characteristics as their accent but different from the calls of their colony mates. “This indicates that they respond to dialect in general,” says team member Gary Lewin.

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Cultural transformation

Parker and her team also put three young orphans in the colonies. It turns out that they all adopt the accent of their approved colony. Lewin says that the younger boys reproduced the dialect perfectly, while the older boy did not learn it either.

We did some preliminary analyzes to determine if each individual colony was imitating a queen. “Surprisingly, that was not the case,” Parker says. “We think hormonal signals may play a role.”

It may be the first time that a cultural dialectal transition has been seen in young rodents, Parker says. “There is some evidence of the transmission of various emergency calls in prairie dogs and other species, but I do not believe that there are greeting calls in rodents.”

The queen of the colony also influences the tone of the naked mole rat. During the study, the colony lost two queens. The whistling sounds of the remaining mole rats differed more during the queen-free periods and became more similar when there was a new queen.

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Winton Frazier

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