Which animal does not produce a sound?
Chirping, rattling and singing: How animals communicate
People talk, laugh or sing. Words are our most important means of communication, language makes our culture possible in the first place. Animals also communicate with sounds or noises, but often in a completely different way than we do. In this article you will find out how animals produce these sounds and what they use to communicate with one another.
When we want to communicate something everyday to people, we don't even think about it for long: we just say it, e.g. B. what we are doing, whether we are hungry, or what our next week will be like. To do this, we need our vocal folds - structures in the larynx that are set into vibration by the air we breathe and thus produce the sound of the voice. Again and again the vocal folds close and interrupt the flow of air; This creates “air parcels” of different sizes, which are shaped into specific sounds and tones with the help of the throat, tongue and lips.
However, by no means all animals communicate with the help of vocal folds. Various ways of communicating have developed in the animal world, and sounds can be generated by various structures. Some tones are used specifically to warn of enemies or to make threats, while others help to find food and a partner.
Barbecue - the right violinist
Crickets communicate with each other, especially during the mating season. Their typical concert can be heard outside from the end of April to the end of June. The cricket chirps with its wings. On the underside of its forewings it has a number of small, fine teeth; There are 140 on each wing. The cricket males stroke the teeth of the left wing with the teeth of the right wing. Since this technique is similar to playing a violin and all crickets stroke the right wing over the left wing, zoologists have given them the nickname “right violinist”. With their wings, they can not only make a sound, but chirp a whole range of different songs to attract females. However, males chirp not only to find a suitable partner, but also to defend their territory.
Rattlesnakes - rattling warning signs
The rattlesnake mainly communicates through its rattle, which is located at the end of its tail and consists of several horn rings. The horn rings are not filled with small balls like a children's rattle, but rub against each other to create the typical rattle tone. The sounds produced by this structure are mainly used as warning signals. When a rattlesnake feels threatened, it can move its tail back and forth 50–60 times per second. Since a rattlesnake has to use a lot of energy to produce poison, it only uses it sparingly and prefers to send a warning signal by rattling. Especially ungulates, which often unintentionally get on a rattlesnake and step on it, are warned very effectively.
Whales - singers of the seas
Since whales spend their lives in the water, they had to adapt their communication system to their environment (see also The song of the whales). In whales, the tone formation between baleen and toothed whales is very different. Very little is known about the sound formation in baleen whales. Although they have a larynx like us humans, they have no vocal cords that can produce sounds. How they develop their sounds and tones must therefore be fundamentally different from us humans.
In the case of toothed whales, more detailed research has already been carried out on how sounds are produced. They have a special organ on the top front of their head that helps them communicate. This organ is called the melon and consists mainly of adipose and connective tissue. When sound is produced, air flows through a structure in the head called "phonetic lips". These phonetic lips are vibrated by the air flow and generate vibrations which are then passed on to the melon. The melon forms a sound from the vibrations, which is emitted to the environment.
Virtually all toothed whales have two pairs of "phonetic lips" and can thus produce two tones at the same time. The only toothed whale that has only one pair of these lips is the sperm whale.
Clicks and songs with stanzas
Not only is the formation of sounds different in baleen and toothed whales, but also the types of tones and noises they make. Baleen whales have a typical whale song, which researchers have named because tone sequences like stanzas of a song are repeated over and over again. This whale song was observed during the mating season and is used by the males to attract females. Toothed whales, on the other hand, communicate with much shorter, high-frequency sounds. To us, they sound like quick clicks or whistles. These tones are used on the one hand for echolocation when searching for food, but on the other hand also for communication among the whales. Toothed whales often travel in groups called schools. Depending on the season and the species of whale, the number of animals in a school can vary from a few to hundreds. The animals in a school must be in constant contact with one another for hunting and migration. The exact meaning of individual tones or noises of the toothed whales is still unknown, but some researchers have the feeling that toothed whales also give their group members names that help them to recognize one another.
Another special type of communication among animals is the unvoiced purr in cats. How exactly they produce the purring noise is still unclear. It is known that cats purr when they are satisfied, but also in stressful situations to calm themselves down.
The language of animals
As diverse as the animal species in the animal kingdom are, their communication options are just as diverse. The different methods of communication with each other and between the species are precisely adapted to their respective environment and way of life.
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