Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The science of the lambs

: This is my favorite time of year in my country, when I get woken in the morning by (mother) sheep and lambs calling to one another. Baaaaaa! How do lambs and sheep find one another in a field full of apparently identical animals? In 2003, scientists Amanda Searby and Pierre Jouventin set out to answer this question. They recorded the "voices" of 30 sheep and 42 lambs and analyzed the sound frequencies they contained. Then they played back the sounds either as they were, or changed in frequency, and watched how the sheep and lambs responded. Changing the frequency of the call prevented the sheep and lambs from recognizing it. Just like human voices, each sheep and lamb's voice contains a unique timbre (pattern of sound frequencies), so mother sheep and lambs can recognize one another even when they're a whole field apart.

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