‘Bilingual’ dolphins

According to an article I found today, dolphins sometimes make whale-like calls. Researchers from the University of Rennes in France recorded dolphins at an aquatic park in Port-Saint-Père and found that they make noises very similar to humpback whale calls, particularly when resting during the early hours of the morning. This is the first time dolphins have been observed mimicking sounds they’ve heard in this way a significant period of time after hearing them.

Apparently dolphins and humpback whales have been observed in the wild interacting with each other in a seemingly playful way, and it’s possible that there is some level of affinity between the two species.

Body language and autism

According to research reported in this article, people with autism have difficult interpreting body language, which makes it difficult for them to understand other people’s emotions. The research used animated clips of figures made up of dots showing emotions which the participants with autism had trouble identifying them correctly. I wonder how they would have fared if real people or videos of real people were displaying the emotions.

On a related note, in Frans de Waal’s book, Our Inner Ape, which I read recently, he mentions an American woman with Asperger’s Syndrome who found she was able to relate better to gorillas than humans and got a job as a gorilla keeper. She found it difficult to deal with direct stares and questions from people, and preferred the way the gorillas were “looking without looking, and understanding without speaking”. She was able to understand the body language of the gorillas, and found that they responded to her as well, comforting her when she showed signs of distress.

Why can’t cats and dogs get on?

Cats and dogs do not always live in perfect harmony together, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

According to an article in Science Daily, one reason why cats and dogs often don’t get on together is because they misinterpret each other’s body language. For example, when cats are angry they usually lash their tails, but dogs growl and arch their backs. When a cat averts its head, it is a sign of aggression, but this signifies submission in dogs.

If cats and dogs are introduced to the same house when they’re young – under 6 months for cats and under a year for dogs, they can learn each another’s body language and are therefore less likely to fight and more likely to get along well together.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with language, well not much really. I am interested in body language and animal communication as well and will be writing about it here occasionally.