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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hyenas laugh's and giggles decoded

It's one of the most distinctive sounds on safari- Hyenas laughing and cackling in the night. It reminds me of sitting around a camp fire or waking up in the night in my tent. In fact as I type I am reminded of my brother waking my parents up in Botswana many years ago:
"Dad, there's a hyena in the tent".
"No Kenneth, it's Grandad snoring".
(and Grandad wasn't even in the same tent as us.)
It seems the giggling sounds of hyenas are being decoded and contain important information about the animal's status.
US-based research by Professor Frederic Theunissen from the University of California at Berkeley, US, and Professor Nicolas Mathevon from the Universite Jean Monnet in St Etienne, France, has been published in the journal BMC Ecology.
  • Pitch of the giggle reveals a hyena's age
  • Variations in the frequency of notes convey information about the animal's social rank.
This may allow them to establish feeding rights which is probably why you hear it alot while they are scapping over food.
There's more about this on the BBC website here.
Whatever it all means it's one of my favourite bush sounds. There are probably only three other sounds that make me feel more nostalgic: hippos grunting, the emerald spotted wood dove call, and the cry of a fish eagle.

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Blogger Rob Breen said...

Oops! It's a good thing I'm not writing the history books. My mother corrected my story:

"We were on our way back from Mozamique and decided to camp at Mkuze game reserve. We had the Heeg's trailer that folded out into a tent. Gran and Granddad (who had been staying in hotels or chalets in Moz) slept in it with you and Dad and I slept outside. Quite an adventure for the grandfolks as it was a long time since they had camped!

Granddad did, of course, camp with us again in Botswana.

Makes a good story anyway!!"

May 15, 2010 at 6:42 PM  

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