13. Gorillas Hum
Sometimes, singing to oneself is a way to tell the world you are away in your own world and don’t really want to be bothered by all the craziness happening elsewhere (hence, singing in the shower). That’s true of silverback gorillas too, which researchers have found will hum or sing while chomping down on their favorite vegetation. It’s not just a way to indicate that they are enjoying their meal, but a way to convey that they would prefer not to be bothered while eating. When they go quiet, that’s a sign that they are willing to chat.
14. African Elephants Vibrate to Each Other
Technically, elephants make very low sounds to one another. Thing is, they’re so low that it does not strike the human ear as a sound—or anything more than a rumbling vibration. Known as “infrasound” (sounds below 20 hertz, too low for humans to detect), this way of communicating may seem quiet to humans, but researchers estimate that one African elephant making an infrasound can be heard by another more than 175 miles away!
15. Egyptian Fruit Bats Argue
You’re probably aware that bats use high-pitched squeals to connect and communicate with each other. But you probably didn’t know how specific such communications could get. Researchers at Tel Aviv University used a machine-learning algorithm to recognize bats’ intonations and the messages they may be trying to convey, “translating” 15,000 calls into several specific messages—more than 60 percent were arguments about four specific things: food, sleep positions, invasion of personal space, or unwanted advances.
16. Bison Choose Leaders With Their Feet
European bison are large creatures, but they speak softly, letting their feet do the talking. When the herds of these impressive creatures seek to move on, they decide which way to go not through the guidance of a single leader, but a complex process in which one of the members of the herd (it can be anyone, male or female, young or old) would walk 20 or more steps in a particular direction without stopping to graze. If the others trust the decision, they take the cue and follow along—and that leading animal becomes the herd’s de facto leader (until the process restarts). Perhaps we could take a cue from the bison…
17. Warbling Antbirds Sing Off-Time
Female Peruvian warbling antbirds will not tolerate other females making moves on their male mate and convey that message clearly to any would-be competitor who invades their territory. The mates generally sing together in a kind of charming harmony, but at the sight of an interloper, the female will shift to an arrhythmic singing that messes up the sound and creates an unpleasant cacophony, ensuring the other woman is not allured by the usual pleasant singing that might otherwise attract her.
18. Apes Stomp, Clap, and Shake Heads
There are many, many other cool ways that great apes communicate with each other; researchers have isolated some 80 gestures at least. But what may be most interesting is that these significantly overlap with human toddlers; as Smithsonian puts it, “researchers found the human toddlers used 52 discrete gestures to communicate, including clapping, hugging, stomping, raising their arms and shaking their heads, often stringing the moves together to convey complex ideas. It turns out that the chimps also used 46 of the same gestures, meaning there’s a 90 percent overlap.”
19. Prairie Dogs Call to Each Other
These creatures are known for their complex underground tunnel systems, but they also have complex ways of calling to one another, using slightly different intonations (reportedly of a “chee”-like sound) depending on the type of predator—coyote, hawk, human—nearby. In one study, they were found to seemingly identify the difference between a person wearing a blue shirt and one wearing a yellow shirt.
20. Caterpillars Send Out Decoy Distress Calls to Ants
The caterpillar of the alcon blue butterfly scrapes its abdomen to create a kind of song. But unlike many other such critters, who use their communication techniques to contact others of their species, this is a message meant for a very different creature: red ants. The song imitates that of the red ant queen, so those soldier ants that hear it will guard the caterpillar, even ᴋɪʟʟing their own kind in order to protect it.
21. Black-Footed Titis Squeak
When black-footed titis (a brown, rainforest-dwelling monkey), use high-pitched squeaks to let each other known not only what types of predator may be near but their general location. Researchers have found that the monkeys vary their calls in a number of ways, creating their own syntax and complex communication system.
22. Dancing Bees, Well, Dance
Research going back centuries has noted that bees use dance moves to alert fellow hive-dwellers of a honey source. A famous study found that, when a bee discovered a honey source, it would head to the hive, performing a dance while other bees touched its abdomen, allowing the others to then find the honey source without needing to be shown. The direction and speed of the dance indicated specific geolocation details that the others could follow.
23. Tarsiers Screech
These tiny, big-eyed primates living in Southeast Asia communicate at the opposite range of elephants—ultrasound frequencies over 20,000 Hertz that are far too high-pitched for the human ear to detect. Scientists recorded them using similar devices as those used to record bats, capturing their vocalizations at 70,000 Hertz, which is believed to help them communicate over the jungle noise (and out of range of predators), making it ideal for avoiding or alerting one another of ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀ. By the way, tarsiers are one of the smallest animals in the world.
24. Ravens Have Sign Language
Just as humans use their hands to emphasize a point, ravens do their own kind of gesticulating, using their beaks and wings to show or offer items such as moss, stones or twigs (usually aimed at members of the opposite sex). They also interact by clasping their bills together or moving an item together, as a show of potential bonding.
25. Sᴘᴇʀᴍ Whales Click
This species of whale uses clicking sounds known as “codas” to convey information to one another. Those in different areas of the ocean use different clicking patterns, sort of like regional dialects—so Caribbean sᴘᴇʀᴍ whales sound slightly different than those in another part of the ocean. Researchers have been particularly interested in a group near the Caribbean island of Dominica, which they’ve found may even have variations between different clans or individual whales.