Dec 7, 2011

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog
We know that there are many languages in the world. Many of us can even speak several languages - local, national, and foreign. We also know that animals have their own sounds - dogs bark, cat meow, and birds chirp. When we hear dogs barking, to us the sound is just a sound that comes from a dog's mouth - meaningless. But did you ever wonder if , animals have their own language, too? Read onto know how the amazing prairie dogs communicate with each other.

Prairie dogs (Cynomys) are burrowing rodents (not actually dogs) native to the grasslands of North America. They are a type of ground squirrel. On average, these stout-bodied rodents will grow to be between 30-40 centimeters long, including the short tail and weight between 0.5-1.5 kilograms. They are found in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Prairie dogs are important to the prairie because their burrowing activities loosen and churn up the soil, increasing its fertility. The burrows themselves can act as homes to other creatures, such as burrowing owls, badgers, rabbits, black-footed ferrets, snakes, and insects. The foraging and feeding practices of prairie dogs (grazing, cutting, and even defecating) positively impact the environment by creating more nutritious and nitrogen-rich plants and grasses.
The highly social prairie dogs live in large colonies or "towns" - collections of prairie dog families that can cover hundreds of acres. A family of prairie dogs, which consists of one dominant male as the head of the family with two to four females and their children, live s in a burrow. The dominant male will defend, the family's borders against other prairie dogs, and disputes are resolved by fighting. However, prairie dogs are social animals. They often make social visits with each other, and greet each other with a sort of kiss.

The prairie dog is adapted to predators. Using its dichromatic color vision, it can detect predators from a far distance and then alert other prairie dogs to the danger with a special high-pitched call. Con Slobodchikoff, a Northern Arizona University biology professor and researcher, showed that prairie dogs use a sophisticated system of vocal communication to describe specific predators. Their barks clearly distinguish between dogs and coyotes, and can include sounds for concepts such as size and color.
These two examples prove that indeed there are significant differences between the barks for dogs and coyotes. Slobodchikoff and other researchers then used this methodology to try to understand more prairie dog words. They found out that the prairie dogs have different barks for predators such as red-tailed hawks, coyotes, dogs, skunks, and badgers. Other words were also found for non-predators such as deer, elk, antelope and cows. Clearly the prairie dog's vocabulary includes a variety of nouns as names of various types of animals.

Aren't they amazing?
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