The naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber), a hairless rodent that lives in the arid areas of eastern Africa, is one of the strangest-looking creatures in the animal kingdom. But what it lacks in looks, it makes up for in extraordinary biology. A team of researchers has discovered that these wrinkled rodents may have more in common with humans than previously thought: we both can speak in dialects. Naked mole-rats are burrowing rodents. They use their large protruding teeth to dig subterranean tunnels. Their lips close behind the teeth preventing soil from entering their mouths while digging. Image used under license from Shutterstock.com Chatty bunch As they are almost blind, an evolutionary adaptation to their exclusively underground lifestyle, naked mole-rats cannot rely on visual cues. Instead, these extremely social animals communicate by squeaking, grunting and chirping — and they do it a lot. In a new study published in Science, scientists give insight into the naked mole-rat’s secret language. A team led by Gary Lewin, a professor in neurobiology and head of the Molecular Physiology of Somatic Sensation Lab at Germany’s Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), found that just like humans, naked mole-rats use vocal mimicry from a young age to learn how to communicate. This enables them to develop geographic dialects and accents. Vocal imitation is something only a handful of other animals can do, among them whales, elephants, primates, parrots and songbirds. The majority of animals are not vocal learners; instead, most species produce…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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