Science News, 2/9/21

“Soda” or “pop?” “Creek” or “crik?” “Sneakers” or “tennis shoes?”

“Cheep” or “chirp?”

It turns out humans aren’t the only ones who have different ways of saying things in different areas. We’ve known for some time that animals like songbirds and whales also have dialects. Turns out naked mole rats do too.

Food is scarce where naked mole rats live, and competition for it is fierce. So you’d better know your colony-mate from a wily intruder. Deep underground, recognizing by sight is a non-starter. And the rats are already a chatty group, so telling each other apart by dialect is natural.

Turns out the queen, who is already in control of the colony, also appears to control the colony’s “voice.” And young rats adopted into a colony learn the new dialect, but the older they are, the more of an accent they’ll have.

To learn more, check out this article from Science News or this one from Smithsonian Magazine.