Goat Accents: You Say 'Baaa,' I Say 'Bahhhh'04:58
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(mikebaird/Flick)
(mikebaird/Flick)

Get ready for the baaad puns. Researchers in the UK have discovered that pygmy goats have accents, based on the groups or "creches" they're raised in.

Previously scientists thought that goats, like other animals, vocalized based on genetics, not environment. But scientists from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the University of London found that as goat kids age, their calls become similar to other kids in their same creche.

"We found the pitch of the call slightly different," said Dr. Alan McElligott of Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the University of London.

Though you may need a trained ear to tell the difference.

Goat Calls

"I'm sure that if a goat listened to a person, they probably couldn't tell the difference between a Boston accent and a New York accent," Dr. McElligott quipped.

The scientists believe the goats are displaying the first stage in the evolutionary development of language. The next stage would be imitation, which some birds (hummingbirds, parrots and songbirds), bats, whales and dolphin have exhibited.

The study concludes that animals could one develop complex language like humans:
"This suggests an early step in the evolution of vocal communication, leading to the advanced and unique vocal-learning abilities found in humans, which allow us to speak."
This research could lead to studies of other animals, like dogs and cats, to determine if they also have the capacity to learn and develop language.

Guest:

  • Dr. Alan McElligott, researcher at Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the University of London

This segment aired on February 16, 2012.

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