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Unique Howls Are What Wolves Use As Names

samzenpus posted 1 year,4 days | from the morning-ralph-morning-sam dept.

Science 96

notscientific writes "Each wolf has a unique howl, which scientists can now decipher through voice recognition (audio), allowing them to identify wolves individually. The scientists developed sound analysis code that can tell which wolf is howling with 100% accuracy. Previously, pitch was used to tell wolves apart, but these only achieved a relatively low accuracy rate. This sound analysis is important because it could well give researchers the first proper way to effectively monitor wolves in the wild. Interestingly, this research comes after the recent finding that dolphins have names for one another. In the case of wolves, their howls are essentially their names."

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96 comments

Names dogs give themselves (5, Funny)

fullon604 (895424) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378655)

Reminds me of this far side cartoon -- http://bit.ly/12lglUc [bit.ly]

What does this have to do with names? (3, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381065)

Great, so they've learned to recognize individual wolf voices, what does that have to do with names? A name, like any noun, is an abstract representation of someone(thing) not present. Dolphins each have a distinct whistle that other dolphins use to attract their attention - which seems an awful lot like a name to me. In this case all they've done is figure out which wolf is "talking", and recognizing the voices of important individuals is something we know pretty much every vocal species does - parents and offspring almost always, and often mates and other family members as well.

Oh, and sorry for hijacking your comment.

Re:What does this have to do with names? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381163)

I think they DO have names!

Thurston Howell III and "Lovey" Howell are two, that come to mind.

Re:What does this have to do with names? (2)

blackraven14250 (902843) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381347)

I didn't RTFA, but I could see them proving it's a name fairly easily. For example, when a family has 2 dogs for a while, and one dies, the other dog is quite visibly affected by their death. If the next night, you hear the living dog using the howl that the now-dead dog normally used, you could quite easily say they're calling a name.

Re:What does this have to do with names? (3, Informative)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381735)

Right. Or maybe it's like a child singing his mother's lullaby to himself after she's gone. You can *say* anything you want, but you need a strong evidence to make a scientific claim.

A more solid case would be Wolf A using Wolf B's howl to get Wolf B's attention and nobody else's, like dolphins do with their identifying whistles. Dirt simple solid argument, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the technological development discussed in the article. Well, other than the fact that the ability to identify individual wolves from their howl will make it much easier to listen in on their "conversations" and discover things like name usage, *if* it exists.

Re:What does this have to do with names? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44382093)

A more solid case would be Wolf A using Wolf B's howl to get Wolf B's attention and nobody else's, like dolphins do with their identifying whistles

And that's not nominally a name, in which manner, precisely? If I have a call that goes something like this "Hey you, shit for brains!" and shout it out in in NYC, you're unlikely to see any heads turn, unless there is a person named Shit for Brains.

Re:What does this have to do with names? (2)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,4 days | (#44382265)

Finish reading the paragraph. As I said that *would* be a name, if it happened - but so far as I know there's no evidence of such behavior among wolves. Certainly the article doesn't suggest anything like that.

Re:What does this have to do with names? (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | 1 year,4 days | (#44384921)

If it's like a child's lullaby, or just a remembrance of their likeness, it's far more impressive than it being a name. :)

Re:What does this have to do with names? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,4 days | (#44385211)

How so? A name would seem to suggest some level of abstract reasoning - a "lullaby" or other remembrance would only seem to suggest an emotional response to the death of a loved one and some capability of mimicry, and we've pretty well established that most vertebrates appear to possess emotions much like our own, and many of the "higher" animals appear to grieve over the death of a loved one and can learn through mimicry.

Re:What does this have to do with names? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44382625)

and I can identify each of my cats by their distinct meows. interesting, but not surprising.

Re:Names dogs give themselves (1, Insightful)

magic maverick (2615475) | 1 year,4 days | (#44383745)

So what's the bloody point of linking to a short URL "service"? This isn't twitter you fucknut. Just link to the URL directly:
http://sareeahkeelyn.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/cart13.jpg [wordpress.com]
In fact, that's easier than making a short URL to link to. I think you must be insane.

Wolf howl identification technology excites expert (3, Interesting)

auric_dude (610172) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378663)

Wolf howl identification technology excites experts http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/23263266 [bbc.co.uk] and on a lighter note Wolves Munch Watermelons to Beat the Heat: Photos http://news.discovery.com/animals/endangered-species/wolves-munch-watermelons-photos-130723.htm [discovery.com] via http://www.metafilter.com/130297/Wolf-Watermelon-Party [metafilter.com]

Re:Wolf howl identification technology excites exp (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44380915)

Wolf Watermelon Party? Some kind of bestial shock site?

So... how do they call each other? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44378677)

Because imitating each others' howls would sound like a very confusing thing to do.

Re:So... how do they call each other? (1)

gigaherz (2653757) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378825)

Maybe they are not as lazy as humans, and when they want to meet someone they walk instead of calling and waiting.

Re: So... how do they call each other? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44378967)

They don't need to call each other because they use this [wolf-tracker.com] to always know what their wolf pals are doing.

Re: So... how do they call each other? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379127)

Sadly, they can't even get basic grammar right.

"Know what's happening when your not in the field or at the office. We've got your back."

You would think one of those two uses would make them realize the other is not correct.

Re:So... how do they call each other? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379017)

TIMMY!

Re:So... how do they call each other? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44380251)

I think you mean:

Alan! Alan! Al! Alan!

Oh, hang on, it's Steve.

Steve! Steve! Steve!

Re:So... how do they call each other? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44383119)

+5 Funny

If I had mod points I would log in and you would get them all for that one. Even better is how many people are actually going to get the reference.
 
The best humor is when it is subtle.

Re:So... how do they call each other? (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | 1 year,4 days | (#44383839)

Nighttime... daytime! Nighttime... daytime!

Re:So... how do they call each other? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44380265)

What is it, Lassie? Did Timmy fall in the well again?"

Re:So... how do they call each other? (3, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,4 days | (#44379043)

Because imitating each others' howls would sound like a very confusing thing to do.

Um, they don't call each other, they just listen to know who else is in the area.

PS: This is a junk article that's just tagging along on the dolphin story (which is interesting/new). Pretty much all group animals can recognize others by sound (parents/babies need to find each other in crowds).

Re:So... how do they call each other? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381135)

Indeed, they've learned to recognize wolf voices. Unlike the case with dolphin signature whistles this has nothing whatsoever to do with names.

Re:So... how do they call each other? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | 1 year,4 days | (#44380059)

Keep in mind, they never said that the wolves can understand the unique calls. They just said that they are unique. The wolves probably can't tell the difference.

Re:So... how do they call each other? (3, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | 1 year,4 days | (#44380239)

Oh, please. Calls are at the top of their communications methodologies. They have self-identifying calls for a reason and it's not over-vocalized introspection.

Your statement would be like saying that although you have a unique # here on ./ and it appears on all your self-identified posts, others really can't read it.

Re:So... how do they call each other? (2)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381113)

No, they said the wolves have unique calls - aka voices. I'd bet that each wolf is perfectly capable of recognizing the voices of those important to them, just like we can recognize the voice of a loved one even in a crowded bar where we can't understand their words.

It has has nothing whatsoever to do with names though - that's just sensationalism.

Re:So... how do they call each other? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381147)

Open your ears mate, even in the city the birds are talking to each other all day long. It's how they stay together in a stable social group without being on top of each other. Their language may not be as flexible as human language but announcing or responding to a "name" is a basic need for all social animals. Still I find these studies interesting because of the evidence they present on different species of social animals. Also I had a retriever many moons ago that knew the difference between a "sing" command (howling) and a "speak" command (barking).

Re:So... how do they call each other? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | 1 year,4 days | (#44385979)

Dogs can allegedly understand around 170-400 human words, give or take depending on the breed.
Anyway, I heard from a reliable source on the internet that all birds are actually saying "Ooh, it's 4:00 AM. Time to not shut the fuck up!"

Re:So... how do they call each other? (1)

mcswell (1102107) | 1 year,1 day | (#44407627)

I turn into a wolf every full moon, and I know at least 170 words. Except nmy dermatologist not only doesn't want me going out in sunlight, now he's saying I need to worry about moonlight.

Furries. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44378679)

This thread is unclean. Bring the fire we must purify it.

More a fingerprint then a name (5, Insightful)

plankrwf (929870) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378681)

A name is something OTHERS use to identify you. If I read the summary right (no need to read that article), they are not suggesting that OTHER wolves are imitating a howl to identify another wolf.
Said differently: the howl is like a fingerprint (although an audible one) in that it can be used to identify the owner of said howl.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44378713)

unless they're really self-centered and they just keep shouting their names

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44378831)

Hodor

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44422541)

You know nothing!

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44378719)

No, not at all like fingerprints. More like names. Wolf names. They have fingerprints too. On their paws.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (2)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378963)

Or, rather, like voices. Like each human has a different voice (unless he chooses to disguise it). And the voice is different than the name..

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (2)

sg_oneill (159032) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378727)

I think the implication is that they can recognize each other by the howl.

I guess something like "Hear that? Its Arooooogaaaaahgrumble! , and it sounds like he's found an old sock!"

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378845)

I think the implication is that they can recognize each other by the howl.

I think that's your (and the headline writer's) inference - I don't think it's being implied by anyone.

Think of it like getting 50 people to stand on a hill and shout "Get off my hill!" A computer could probably be programmed to tell those about, too, but it wouldn't make them names.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379141)

You want to point out a grammar flaw that is commonly made, and make one of your own.

Re: More a fingerprint then a name (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | 1 year,3 days | (#44395017)

What are you talking about? I wasn't pointing out a grammar flaw. I was pointing out that people have read too much into the research. The only error I can see is where I've used the wrong word - something I do fairly often - but that's nothing to do with grammar either.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (2)

jkflying (2190798) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378847)

The idea of a name is that you can use it to refer to a third party even when that party isn't present, ie. imitating another's 'fingerprint' so that you can be sure you are both referring to the same person. The wolves don't do that, they are just capable of recognising certain howls as belonging to certain owners, much like recognising somebodies face.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (3, Insightful)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378977)

...., much like recognising somebodies face.

Or, more to the point, like recognizing somebody's voice...

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | 1 year,4 days | (#44379161)

Hear that? Its Arooooogaaaaahgrumble!

Oh, must be Richard Nixon's head then!

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381245)

Which has precisely zero relevance to names unless a wolf other than Arooooogaaaaahgrumble! used his howl. (Which is the case with our names and dolphin signature whistles) It's more like someone standing on a hill calling out "Come and get it!" and only their family comes in for lunch because they recognized the caller's voice. And even that isn't directly implied by the article, which is only saying that a scientist on the next hill over can record the call and identify who was making it - though it's been pretty well established that most vocal animals can recognize each-others' voices.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (2)

mephist01 (122565) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378815)

Exactly. Regarding the dolphins, Geoffrey Pullum (Prof. Linguistics, U of Edinburgh) covered this here:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=5453 [upenn.edu]
" 'The researchers found that individuals only responded to their own calls, by sounding their whistle back.'

Now, think about that. If you call out "Geoff Pullum!" in a crowded street, and I'm there within earshot, I'm likely to turn round and look at you. But what I am not likely to do is yell "Geoff Pullum!" back at you."

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44383137)

But you probably would yell "Geoff Pullum is over here!" back, to both: acknowledge the presence, and point at your location. What actually dolphins do, by whistling out their names - they say "I'm here".

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

mcswell (1102107) | 1 year,1 day | (#44407641)

Saying "I'm here" and saying "Geoff Pullum" are extraordinarily different things. Afaik, there is zero evidence that dolphins do the latter.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (2)

Oligonicella (659917) | 1 year,4 days | (#44380287)

Odd then, how frequently we select names for ourselves that we wish others to use.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44380681)

Truly?

My name was choosen by my parents, not by me.

(Yes, I am from the Coward family, how do you know;-0)

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | 1 year,4 days | (#44384199)

And which name was that?

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

Beorytis (1014777) | 1 year,4 days | (#44380343)

A name is something OTHERS use to identify you.

Exactly. See also this similar criticism of the recent Dolphin "names" story: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=5453 [upenn.edu]

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381527)

That article does absolutely nothing to refute dolphins use of names, except that they don't use them exactly like we do. In fact hepoints out the very fact that they *are* names used by others to get the owner's attention:

His argument: Dolphin A whistles "B" and Dolphin B whistles back "B", whereas Person A calls out "B" and Person B calls out "what", or crosses the street to talk. But the point is that any dolphin can make a sound that *specifically* gets the attention of B, and no one else. Dolphin B has a name. And when you consider that dolphins can easily communicate over several miles, much further if conditions are right, calling back their own whistle probably reduces confusion considerably more than "what", especially considering the whole pod is going to be talking over the same "CB channel", Much like answering a phone using your own name, it acts as confirmation that you're actually speaking with the intended person with a minimum of fuss.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | 1 year,4 days | (#44382667)

But the point is that any dolphin can make a sound that *specifically* gets the attention of B, and no one else.

There was no evidence of the above. Instead they found

The researchers found that individuals only responded to their own calls, by sounding their whistle back.

To show dolphins have names you would need to find evidence that dolphins mimic each others whistles. You would need to record Dolphin A whistling Dolphin Bs whistle and Dolphin B responding. But they didn't do that.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,4 days | (#44383147)

Here's a better article describing at least one research project on the topic.
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-dolphins-name-signature-whistles-20130722,0,1462053.story [latimes.com]

Your assertion still holds that they did not directly show dolphins using names to call one another - but they did observationally identify individual signature whistles that seem to be associated with particular individuals and are used by their podmates. And when playing back synthetic reproductions (not recordings, they wanted to strip out any voice identification) of an individual's signature that one individual would respond by repeating the whistle and sometimes swimming over to investigate - behavior not seen when playing any other whistle patterns from their "conversations". Behavior not unlike what you would expect from a person whose name was called out by an synthetic voice that then said nothing else.

I'll admit that more direct evidence would still be desirable to confirm the claim that they are used as names in the wild, but it certainly makes for a compelling early study.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

mcswell (1102107) | 1 year,1 day | (#44407657)

"That article does absolutely nothing to refute dolphins use of names, except that they don't use them exactly like we do." Your second clause refutes your first clause: a name is something that's used in a particular way, either to call to the hearer (as a vocative) or to refer to a third person. (In some languages, and in "motherese", the speaker can also use a name to refer to themselves.) So if they're not using these calls the way we use names, the calls are by definition not names. They may be something else interesting, but not names.

Re:More a fingerprint then a name (1)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,1 day | (#44407773)

Notice the "...exactly like we do". I agree with your point completely, my point is simply that the "refutation" did nothing to attack the use of signal whistles as names, only that dolphin vocabulary/cultural behavior is not an exact match for our own, which is to be expected. If I heard my name called out my first response would not be to call my own name back. A CB operator on the other hand does something very similar "Calling FSM, come in please FSM"... "This is FSM, who is this please?", which considering that CB operators and dolphins communicate via somewhat analogous channels* is perhaps not surprising.
* Both dolphins and CB operators communicate over long range via shared vocal channels, with many parties potentially all talking at once. And unlike CB operators dolphins don't have the option of using different frequencies to separate signals.

The point remains though that when researchers generated a synthetic signature whistle the specific "named" individual would respond, and not any of the others, which certainly sounds like it serves the purpose of a name.

SO! What's wolfie's name? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44378705)

Just sayin........

Re:SO! What's wolfie's name? (3, Funny)

MoreDruid (584251) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378759)

Moon Moon!

Misleading headline and a broken link (5, Insightful)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378839)

Unique Howls Are What Wolves Use As Names

First of all, strange wording - I'd have gone with "Wolves Use Unique Howls As Names."

More importantly, no-one - except for a commenter on one of the articles - is suggesting that wolves use these as names. You could get 50 people to stand on a hill and shout "I love monkeys!" and still get a computer to tell them apart, but that wouldn't be a name.

Even more bizarre is the headline on the linked article:

Wolves howl like humans, new voice recognition study shows

Er, what? No they don't. They howl like wolves.

The scientists developed sound analysis code [tandfonline.com]

Might want to fix that link.

Re:Misleading headline and a broken link (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379037)

Lies and FUD! If canini were using monikers, I imagine that point would have been observed centuries, maybe millennia ago. They're generally pack animals, it would rather stick out when they were acting as individuals upon hearing their howled name. And "howl", really, they can yell "hey dave" from miles away, but wouldn't figure out to use an indoor voice when they've already assembled?

See, there, I said "I imagine", because there's nothing in the article even referencing that subject.

Re:Misleading headline and a broken link (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379315)

Unique Howls Are What Wolves Use As Names

Whoever wrote that might have watched too much Pokémon...

Re:Misleading headline and a broken link (1)

notscientific (2728777) | 1 year,4 days | (#44379327)

Apologies for the wrong link there. Here's the proper link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09524622.2013.817317#.Ue_S7WTwKPE [tandfonline.com]

Re:Misleading headline and a broken link (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44383015)

Are you the one who made up this "name" stuff? You should apologies to the scientists as well for misrepresenting their work. That's far more offensive than a bad link.

So breeding the howl out of dogs makes them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44378869)

anonymous?

Just curious (1)

Betty McGee (2860293) | 1 year,4 days | (#44378943)

What would "Bobby" sound like in wolf howl language?

Re:Just curious (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381169)

Nothing because his name SQL Injected the database and fubarred it.

Bad news for the wolves.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379123)

Now surveillance state can violate their privacy as well.

Re: Bad news for the wolves.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379155)

God damn! You went there. Brilliant.

Here I am! Here I am! (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | 1 year,4 days | (#44379249)

Is probably what they're saying most of the time. At the risk of sounding trite, I expect that the return howls are mostly just 'So glad you are!'.

They're not discussing Plato or the recipe for fondue, they're wolves. If there's any content in the howl it's going to be things like 'I'm hungry!' or 'Who wants some?' or 'Deer party at Blacktail's den!'

Re:Here I am! Here I am! (5, Informative)

Retron (577778) | 1 year,4 days | (#44379467)

FWIW, wolves do emit different types of howl - a given wolf won't produce the same howl each time.

Although nobody can say for sure what the meaning is, wolves will make different types of howl if they're separated from their pack, if they've completed a kill, if they're about to "rally" with the pack and, interestingly, if a wolf dies.

For general howling, then yes, it's been known about for years that you can identify a given wolf by their howl. My old adopted wolf Kenai (who lived at the same wolf centre as the original research author used for their studies) had a very recognizable two-tone howl.

Re:Here I am! Here I am! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379789)

My old adopted wolf Kenai (who lived at the same wolf centre as the original research author used for their studies) had a very recognizable two-tone howl.

Probably trying to hack the telephone system (DTMF).

Re:Here I am! Here I am! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379709)

If wolf howls and barks are anything like dogs, they most definitely carry meaning. There was a study where people had to recognize a dogs howl or bark by hearing it through a pair of headphones (with no accompanying video). Long time dog owners could identify the situation the howl or bark was used in with astounding accuracy. Not all of them were obvious, some of them sounded so similar to me that I certainly couldn't tell them apart and I've played guitar for over 15 years (in other words developed a very discerning ear).

Re:Here I am! Here I am! (2)

Retron (577778) | 1 year,4 days | (#44380213)

You won't hear a wolf bark very often (and it tends to be distinct "wuff"s rather than a long, continuous series of barks - Mosi at the UKWCT barks if a particular person comes into the centre) but certainly with howls you can that there are different scenarios. For example, the wolves at the UKWCT will do long chorus howls when the nearby church bells ring, but if you take one particular wolf out she'll howl a few times when she's out of sight of the other wolves - presumably to let them know she's still around. If the wolves are feeling playful, they'll sometimes "rally" (which is a real cacophony, you can hear one of my recordings on the wolf page on Wiki, which someone has labelled "rallying cry"). Before the rally properly starts they'll howl, but the pitch varies rather than being a pure note.

Fun fact: when I played one of the wolf howl recordings I'd made, the oscilloscope on WinAmp showed a perfect sine wave for a few seconds. I was impressed!

No Shit Sherlock (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379305)

Got to admit it always amazes how long it takes the academics to come up with these *astounding* discoveries when the real experts who have lived or live with wolves have known this for years...

I live with three wolfies - they all howl differently, they all greet me differently, they all have individual personalities, they are all thinking sentient creatures but then I live with them, I dont peer at them through a glass window or a metal mesh....

Re: No Shit Sherlock (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379573)

There's a difference between an unscientific and subjective observation; and an objective, automated, and unsupervised classification system for individual wolf howls.

Nicknames (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | 1 year,4 days | (#44379571)

>> their howls are essentially their names

And the scent of peein' on stuff is their nickname.

Re:Nicknames (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,4 days | (#44379961)

And the scent of peein' on stuff is their nickname.

Realistically, it's more like tagging ... "Bob was here, this is my territory"

Bad Science (3, Interesting)

seyyah (986027) | 1 year,4 days | (#44379797)

Dolphin story debunked (twice):
Dolphin naming? [upenn.edu]
Dolphins using personal names, again [upenn.edu]

I'm going to assume that the wolf story is as much nonsense.

Not really, more like a bitter language blogger. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44380797)

The links you posted did nothing to "debunk" the idea of Dolphins using language as the person admits they're not a zoologist only a language blogger who has at most read a few news articles on the subject of dolphin's language abilities.

As for my own personal opinion on the matter, given the neurological complexity of the brains of dolphins and whales, which is comparable to humans, I wouldn't be surprised in the least to find that they used names for each other and also talk communicating complex ideas and concepts to each other.

And based on what I've observed over the years, many scientists who should know better, since they so prominently talk about it being proven that humans aren't the center of the universe since Copernicus, nonetheless appear to resent the possibility of any animal having similar intelligence to humans.

Well humans had to learn that earth wasn't the center of the universe based on the discoveries in astronomy centuries ago and nature shall have to once again teach humans that they aren't even the intellectual center of the universe.

Re:Not really, more like a bitter language blogger (1)

mcswell (1102107) | 1 year,1 day | (#44407713)

The links you posted did nothing to "debunk" the idea of Dolphins using language as the person admits they're not a zoologist only a language blogger who has at most read a few news articles on the subject of dolphin's language abilities.

Wrong. If you want to show that something is language, then you need a linguist, not a biologist. The zoologist can do the recording, but doesn't know what a linguist knows about language. And contrary to your assertion, the linked-to bloggers (Geoff Pullum and Mark Liberman) are both PhD linguists, in fact well known among linguists. (And just in case you're wondering, my BS is in zoology, and my PhD is in linguistics.)

...given the neurological complexity of the brains of dolphins and whales, which is comparable to humans

Wrong again.

Re:Bad Science (3, Interesting)

Retron (577778) | 1 year,4 days | (#44381655)

Here's something which I can't explain. Maybe a reader here can shed some light on it?

Back in 2006 we had three wolf pups at the wolf centre (I became a volunteer after adopting Kenai, mentioned above). They were hand-reared, so were used to people right from the start.

I decided to do a fun experiment, knowing it'd be the only chance I'd get. Nobody else was this daft!

* When they were three months of age, I ran away from them in their enclosure. They chased me, but when I zigzagged away from them they gave up.
* At four months old, I repeated the experiment. This time they followed me even after I zigzagged, before catching up with me (whereupon they licked me profusely).
* At six months old, I did it for the final time. This time the two female wolves ran away from me and vanished behind some trees. The male wolf came straight towards me, staring at me intently. When he reached me, he wrapped himself around my legs, causing me to wobble a bit. As I was working out how to extricate myself, there was an almighty "whomp" from behind as the two females jumped upon me. That knocked me over and I was licked half to death by the happy pups.

To this day, I don't know how they communicated their tactics to one another, although clearly they did somehow. Wild wolves do the same thing, of course, as you'll have seen on those nature programmes where they use the pincer movement to get a bison calf away from the herd. FWIW there was no noise from the wolves beforehand, just the rustling of grass as they executed their manoeuvre.

Re:Bad Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44382017)

Here's something which I can't explain. Maybe a reader here can shed some light on it?

Back in 2006 we had three wolf pups at the wolf centre (I became a volunteer after adopting Kenai, mentioned above). They were hand-reared, so were used to people right from the start.

I decided to do a fun experiment, knowing it'd be the only chance I'd get. Nobody else was this daft!

* When they were three months of age, I ran away from them in their enclosure. They chased me, but when I zigzagged away from them they gave up.
* At four months old, I repeated the experiment. This time they followed me even after I zigzagged, before catching up with me (whereupon they licked me profusely).
* At six months old, I did it for the final time. This time the two female wolves ran away from me and vanished behind some trees. The male wolf came straight towards me, staring at me intently. When he reached me, he wrapped himself around my legs, causing me to wobble a bit. As I was working out how to extricate myself, there was an almighty "whomp" from behind as the two females jumped upon me. That knocked me over and I was licked half to death by the happy pups.

To this day, I don't know how they communicated their tactics to one another, although clearly they did somehow. Wild wolves do the same thing, of course, as you'll have seen on those nature programmes where they use the pincer movement to get a bison calf away from the herd. FWIW there was no noise from the wolves beforehand, just the rustling of grass as they executed their manoeuvre.

Interesting, but is it possible that the younger pups were just playing, while as they got older deeper hunting instincts were kicking in and they used those tactics?

Re:Bad Science (1)

Retron (577778) | 1 year,4 days | (#44382575)

Interesting, but is it possible that the younger pups were just playing, while as they got older deeper hunting instincts were kicking in and they used those tactics?

Oh, I've no doubt the behaviour is instinctual - they were definitely honing their skills on me. The thing that makes me wonder is "how did they decide which wolf would have which role" - there has to have been something which made them decide that the male would ensnare me while the females went in for the "kill".

Re:Bad Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44393933)

Interesting, but is it possible that the younger pups were just playing, while as they got older deeper hunting instincts were kicking in and they used those tactics?

Oh, I've no doubt the behaviour is instinctual - they were definitely honing their skills on me. The thing that makes me wonder is "how did they decide which wolf would have which role" - there has to have been something which made them decide that the male would ensnare me while the females went in for the "kill".

You would have to continually repeat the experiment and see if it is always the male ensnaring you.

Re:Bad Science (1)

kermidge (2221646) | 1 year,3 days | (#44388767)

That's one neat story. Thanks.

I've no idea, from what little I've read (my intro to wolf culture was Mowat's book and later his original paper and notes) how they develop their various hunting techniques. I'd guess that a few are practised by play, but where the playbook comes from is up for grabs. The idea that anything that complicated can be carried as some sort of gene memory is frowned upon, but it's still an easy thing to pick for an explanation. (How the hell else does a bird know how to build a nest, for instance?)

I mean, what's left? Divine guidance? Telepathy? The latter, weird and outlandish as it is, would not surprise me at all, were it so. And then there's the bit about communication - given all the ways we use posture, gesture, little changes in the face, to convey things, I'd expect them to be doing no less. But there's still the matter of where the maneuvers come from.

Someday I should maybe tell the story of Spot, Best Rabbit Dog on the Hill.

Re:Bad Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44383435)

I'm a dedicated follower of LanguageLog myself, but how can a blog post from 2006 debunk a study from 2013? Did you even read what the new study was about?

wild bottlenose dolphins respond to hearing a copy of their own signature whistle by calling back. Animals did not respond to whistles that were not their own signature. This study provides compelling evidence that a dolphin’s learned identity signal is used as a label when addressing conspecifics. Bottlenose dolphins therefore appear to be unique as nonhuman mammals to use learned signals as individually specific labels for different social companions in their own natural communication system. --King & Janik 2013, abstract [pnas.org]

I would call that a name.

Re:Bad Science (1)

sinkasapa (2587241) | 1 year,4 days | (#44383785)

I don't think you have to assume that there is a little BS here. "Unique Howls Are What Wolves Use As Names" is really misleading when all they are really talking about is being able to recognize individual wolves by their calls. It is like saying that your name is how you pronounce the letter 'r'.

It may not be bad science so much as a bad presentation of science.

Wow. Just like the Pokemon (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44379911)

Come on. Nobody else was thinking this? I mean, what other animal speaks in a way that all they ever say is their name over and over again.

Not a name (2)

Culture20 (968837) | 1 year,4 days | (#44380219)

It's not a name unless a second wolf uses the howl to "talk" about the first wolf to another wolf (even the first wolf in case the second wolf wants a specific wolf to come to its location).

Theory of Evolution will be proven when. (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | 1 year,4 days | (#44380943)

you are camping and hear "ooowaaaaaahooooooGary".

As one wolf howled to the other, (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44381461)

Dammit, now the NSA will be listening to *us*!!!

Names? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44383945)

Study and article: individual wolves can be identified by researchers using a signature of their howls.

Slashdot: Wolves use unique howls as names.

Where did that extrapolation come from? The article makes no mention of the wolves identifying each-other with the howls.

So they're just like people (1)

KingTank (631646) | 1 year,4 days | (#44384763)

they keep saying their own names, or referring to themselves in the third person, like Jimmy from Seinfeld. Awesome. Or maybe this is a bullshit story. Awesome.

...Unique bowels are what wolves use as name tags (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | 1 year,4 days | (#44385145)

Hello *sniff * sniff * my name is Larry.
Here's my business turd.
Sniff me up sometime.
Meanwhile, between howls, I'll be off on the prairie spit shining my junk.
**aahhhooooowwwwww**

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