“It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.” -Mark Twain

It’s an exciting time for Zoology and Animal Behavior science. Scientists keep finding new ways to communicate with animals, which means we’re one step closer to interspecies relations like this:

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Though hopefully without the dead, soulless eyes.

Okay, to be fair, it takes most of these scientists years (sometimes decades) of research to figure anything out, and even then the findings can be tenuous. Still, exciting advancements have been made.

The most recent was just posted last week, when Catherine Hobaiter and her team released the findings of their 18-month study of wild chimpanzee interaction. They recorded 4,500 exchanges and were able to  assign what they call “true meanings” to 36 gestures. By studying these animals in their natural habitat, they have laid the groundwork for Human-chimp relations.

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-trailer-00

Just in time, too. Those mind-melds weren’t working very well.

You probably don’t need to worry about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes becoming a reality just yet, though it does kind of sound like a chimp is responsible for that title. Hobaiter’s team does admit that there is a lot of room for error in their study, that some gestures could have multiple meanings and/or some meanings could use multiple gestures. However, the progress is very exciting. Hopefully with this new information we could interact with wild chimps without needing to do all that training ahead of time. Also we can learn useful things like, “Climb on my back,” and “Don’t rub your feces on my shirt.”

The other really exciting innovation in human-animal relations is in regards to dolphins.

dolphin

Yeah, these little shits.

Everyone knows that dolphins are pretty dang smart, but even though everyone knows this little piece of trivia, every news article ever written about dolphins includes the phrase “Dolphins are widely considered to be one of the smartest creatures on the planet…” Seriously, take a minute and search for a news article about Dolphins. I promise you they’ll lead off the exact same way, or at least it’ll be mentioned in the first paragraph.

While a lot of people are aware that we recently found that dolphins get high recreationally (because nothing says “interspecies relations” like a bonfire and a drum circle), some of us are more intrigued by the new finding where the people from the Wild Dolphin Project have developed a human-dolphin translator that successfully identified a whistle as the word “sargassum.” Like a boss.

Think about it: We have translated a dolphin-word. As in, we have separated a meaningful sound from all the inane clicks and whistles that these adorable little jerks make all the time. Meaning we could reproduce said word, and dolphins would understand it means “sargassum” or at least “seaweed.”

Now, I don’t know a lot about it and I have a lot of questions since the study was of one single pod of dolphins, and while 25 years is a lot of time to study something, I would like to be sure this isn’t limited to that pod. Still, it’s really, really cool, and I can’t wait to be able to talk to dolphins. Also, as a linguist, it strikes me that humans might not be the only species with a predisposition for language. Like, holy crap. Language might be inherent in all intelligent species, and that’s kind of amazing.

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One thought on ““It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.” -Mark Twain

  1. This one was a fascinating read. I especially like dolphins. Been years since I’ve seen one in person though.

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