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Thursday, 28 January 2021

Naked mole rats have different LANGUAGES! Strange animals 'chirp' to their colonies in unique dialects, study reveals

  • A colony of naked mole rats has a unique dialect which comes from the queen  
  • Allows the blind animals to differentiate between colony members and outsiders
  • Baby mole rats pick up the accent very quickly in order to communicateWith their wrinkly skin and protruding front teeth, naked mole rats are some of the strangest looking creatures in the animal kingdom.

    Now, a new study has revealed that the weird animals also have different languages, which they use to converse with their underground colonies.   

    Baby mole rats develop the dialect quickly and the colony's queen — the only breeding female — is responsible for creating and maintaining the accent. The collective accent helps nurture a feeling of togetherness and boosts cohesion within the unit, according to the researchers from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin.  

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    Naked mole rats live in underground colonies which can include hundreds of members and each group has its own unique dialect, a new study has found

    Naked mole rats live in underground colonies which can include hundreds of members and each group has its own unique dialect, a new study has found

    Naked mole rats consume their queen's POOP to become doting mothers 

    Scientists have discovered what may be the naked mole rat's most bizarre trait yet.

    These hairless rodents live in colonies dominated by a queen, the sole female in the group who produces offspring.

    All of the other females are unable to reproduce, but care for the queen's children as if they were their own. 

    Now, researchers studying the unique situation have found that this maternal instinct may boil down to the females' unusual method of obtaining key hormones: consuming the queen's feces.

    The phenomenon of eating feces – known as coprophagy – may play an important role in child-rearing for naked mole rats.

    In these colonies, the non-breeding 'subordinate' females still perform a number of parental duties, including grooming and corralling of the pups.

    Naked mole rats spend their lives underground in vast networks of interconnected tunnels and are blind, relying on squeeks, tweets and grunts to communicate. 

    Researchers set about listening and deciphering the noises made by 166 individuals from seven colonies held in labs in both Berlin and Pretoria, South Africa.

    Over two years the researchers recorded a total of 36,190 chirps and an algorithm worked out the acoustic properties of each one.

    Lead author Dr Alison Barker said: 'We established each colony has its own dialect.

    'The development of a shared dialect strengthens cohesion and a sense of belonging among the naked mole-rats of a specific colony.'

    Naked mole rats are native to the dry plains of East Africa, where there is almost always limited food, which the experts believe may have led to xenophobic tendencies. 

    If an outsider from another colony is introduced, it will be ruthlessly slaughtered.  

    Within their own colony, however, the rodents work together 'harmoniously,' says Professor Gary Lewin, co-author of the study.

    'Each one knows its rank and the tasks it has to perform - and usually accomplishes them reliably.' 

    A computer program, after an initial training period, was then able to very reliably detect which noise came from which animal.

    Baby mole rats develop the dialect quickly and the colony's queen — the only breeding female — is responsible for creating and maintaining the accent

    Baby mole rats develop the dialect quickly and the colony's queen — the only breeding female — is responsible for creating and maintaining the accentDr Barker said: 'So then we knew that each naked mole-rat has its own voice. 

    'What we didn't know, however, was whether the animals could recognise one another from their voices.'

    The AI also recognised similarities in the types of sounds made within a single colony, allowing the compute to identify which colony an individual came from.

    Dr Barker said: 'That meant that each colony probably had its own distinct dialect.'To investigate the importance of colony-wide accents, the researchers put individual animals in a chamber that was connected to two tubes. 

    One tube was silent and one was home to other mole rats. If the other mole rats were from the same colony, the individual would immediately give a chirp back. 

    However, if it was a foreign accent, indicating they were from another colony, the animal stayed mute.   

    Dr Barker said: 'That enabled us to infer naked mole-rats can recognise their own dialect and will selectively respond to that.'

    WHY ARE SCIENTISTS INTERESTED IN THE NAKED MOLE RAT?

    With wrinkly skin and walrus like teeth, naked mole rats are never going to win any beauty contests.

    Yet these creatures, which live underground in the deserts of east Africa, are one the medical marvels of the natural world.

    If a human was to have the same lifespan as a naked mole rat, relative to its size, they would live for up to 600 years.

    As well as being resistant to cancer, they have very low respiratory and metabolic rates, meaning they use oxygen sparingly.

    Scientists have put considerable effort into sequencing the creatures' genome in an attempt to understand its secrets.

    The machinery that translates their DNA into the functioning molecules in the cells, proteins, have also been found to be highly accurate.

    This means their proteins contain few errors compared to other mammals, and meaning their is less chance of something malfunctioning. 

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