Listen to the songs that dassies sing

I didn’t realise just how interesting dassies are! Searching for their latin names for my keywords in my photography portfolio opened up a fascinating world. The information below was copied from two websites. They also have an unusual method of temperature regulation for mammals, but that will be discussed later in the temperature regulation blogs.

Dassie (rock hyrax, Procavia capensis) on sentinel duty on a calcite ridge above the dry Auob river in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier park (click to enlarge)

Dassies are very noisy and sociable. Adults use at least 21 different vocal signals. The most familiar signal is a high trill, made in response to  danger.  Their calls are referred to as “songs.” & provide important biological information such as size, age, social status, body weight, & condition,  as determined by measuring their song length, patterns, complexity, and frequency (See Wikipedia article). Interesting new research into the complex of sounds that dassies use to communicate has recently been reported in the Proceedings of  Royal Society B by Kershenbaum & colleagues. The following is taken from their abstract:- Few mammalian species produce vocalizations that are as richly structured as bird songs, and this greatly restricts the capacity or information transfer. Syntactically complex mammalian vocalizations have been previously studied only in primates, cetaceans and bats. We provide evidence of complex syntactic vocalizations in a small social mammal: the rock hyrax (Procavia capensis: Hyracoidea). We adopted three algorithms, commonly used in genetic sequence analysis and information theory, to examine  the order of syllables in hyrax calls. Syntactic dialects exist, and the syntax of hyrax calls is significantly different between different regions in Israel. Call syntax difference is positively correlated to geographical distance over short distances.  No correlation is found over long distances, which may reflect limited dispersal movement. These findings indicate that rich syntactic structure is more common in the vocalizations of mammalian taxa than previously thought and suggest the possibility  of vocal production learning in the hyrax.

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