The animal kingdom is a cacophony of grunts, growls, whistles, squeaks, and other noises that sound utterly crazy to the human ear but are essential to animals’ survival.
We know that dogs go “woof” and cats go “meow” but how does a porcupines go? (Warning: It boarders on cuteness overload.)
How do cheetahs and foxes call out to one another in the wild and what sound does the otherwise-quiet male ostrich make during mating season?
The answers are a series of noises you would never expect to hear from these familiar animals. And the way that they speak are still teaching scientists a thing or two about the complex nature of voice.
A single animal can produce dozens of different sounds for different purposes, and luckily people are fascinated enough by these crazily-bizarre noises to upload them on YouTube.
Here are a 10 clips of some of the most outrageous animal sounds we could find. You’ll want to put your headphones on to get the full experience:
1. Koalas grunt like pigs:
Koalas look like teddy bears but sound like something less cuddly: a pig. The sounds these animals make are fascinating because they not only can use their larynx like humans, but they also have special folds in their nose. The deep-pitched bellow in the video above are produced through the nose.
2. Cheetahs chirp like birds:
Unlike lions, jaguars, and other wild cats, cheetahs can’t roar. Instead, they chirp. That’s because the thyroid bone in their throat that they use to help generate sound is shaped differently from the same thyroid bone in wild cats that can roar. That’s also why your house cat can’t roar.
3. Porcupines sound like Alvin the chipmunk (sound starts 25 seconds in):
This is Teddy. He’s part of the Texas travelling educational zoo, or Zooniversity. Wild porcupines are solitary creatures who don’t like to share. Teddy, although not wild, is no exception. When wild porcupines squabble over food or den space they sound a lot like Teddy in this video when asked to share his corn.
4. Walruses can whistle:
While most of of a walrus’s growls, bellows, and grunts are generated from vibrating vocal cords, there is one special sound that is not. It sounds like a bell and is the last sound you’ll hear in the video. This noise is generated within inflatable sacs called pharyngeal pouches located on either side of the animal’s esophagus. Male walruses will woo females with their bells and whistles.
5. Foxes sound super cute:
The red fox has over 20 different calls. One of the most common is barking, like in this video. Scientists have found that different foxes space their barks apart slightly differently, which allows them to recognise one another in the wild.
6. Horses have a sense of humour:
Some animals will imitate the sounds and behaviour of others. This practice is common in birds and is also observed in horses, but is not necessarily a sign of intelligence. Horses will mimic each other’s behaviour but will also imitate humans, like in the video above.
7. Lyrebirds can mimic just about any sound they hear:
Go ahead and marvel at the mimicking capabilities of the lyrebird. Similar to the mockingbird, the lyrebird generates sounds of other birds through its syrinx, but it can also reproduce the sound of just about anything it hears, including a toy gun, a camera, a car alarm, and even a chainsaw. The more diverse its mating song, the more attractive he is to females.
8. Speaking of mockingbirds:
Mockingbirds are famous for their remarkable ability to mimic the sounds of other birds. Like all songbirds, these imitators use the mammal-equivalent of a larynx, called the syrinx. Mockingbirds tighten and relax membranes in the syrinx to generate different sounds and songs of other bird species.
9. Male ostriches go boom:
Male ostriches are usually silent, but when it comes time to mate, they’re very vocal. By filling a sac in their long necks with air, they produce a low-pitched, hollow, booming sound to let the female know they’re ready. Males in captivity will sometimes boom at visitors, too.
10. Rocky Mountain Elk bulls scream for the ladies:
The average Rocky Mountain Elk bull weighs 700 pounds, so you might think they have a deep, burly call. But in fact, these elk utter a high-pitched bugle-like scream to generate female attention. Scientists suspect that this mating call signals muscular strength and endurance, so ideally the louder and longer the male screams, the better.
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