Researchers Find Goats Can Develop Accents

Posted on February 16, 2012

Researchers have found that goats develop accents as they grow older and mix in different goat groups. A study - published in the journal Animal Behavior - found that goats in different social groups develop slightly different accents. This indicates that the voice of a goat is not 100% dependent on genetics.

The BBC reports that the news means goats join humans, bats and whales in being able to adapt a vocal sound in response to the environment. You can listen to the goat calls here.

Dr Elodie Briefer and Dr Alan McElligott from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences studied four groups of pygmy goats, who were all full or half siblings. They were recorded during two socially and ecologically distinct periods: at one week old, when they typically stay hidden from predators with their siblings; and at five weeks old, when they form social groups with animals of the same age, known as "creches." The researchers found that despite their limited vocal repertoire, the calls of goat half-siblings became more similar when they were raised in the same social group together.

Dr Briefer says, “We found that genetically related kids produced similar calls, which is not that surprising. But the calls of kids raised in the same social groups were also similar to each other, and became more similar as the kids grew older. This suggests that goat kids modify their calls according their social surroundings, developing similar 'accents'."

The researchers say the study indicates that they the ability for mammals to change vocal sounds (vocal plasticity) and develop an accent is potentially far more widespread than previously believed.

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