Nature: Hippos can identify 'wheeze honks' from other members of their own ...

Nature: Hippos can identify 'wheeze honks' from other members of their own ...
Nature: Hippos can identify 'wheeze honks' from other members of their own ...
Hippos recognise each other's voices! Animals can identify 'wheeze honks' from other members of their social group and respond less aggressively than to the calls of strangers, study finds Researchers led from the Jean Monnet University studied hippos in Mozambique The recorded calls made from members of different hippopotamus social groups They then played them back to either the same, neighbouring or distant groups  The team found that the hippos reacted straight away when they heard the calls  Strangers' calls elicited greater responses, including territorial dung spraying

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The hippo's 'wheeze honk' is one of the most distinctive sounds in the animal kingdom, and now a new study has revealed that the creatures can recognise their friends' individual honks. 

Researchers led from the Jean Monnet University studied the behaviour of groups of hippos living in a nature reserve in Mozambique.

Their findings suggest that the animals' calls — which can be heard over great distances — help to maintain social groups, with strangers' honks responded to more aggressively. 

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Hippopotamuses can tell each other apart based on the 'wheeze honk' noises they make — responding differently to strangers than members of their own social group

Hippopotamuses can tell each other apart based on the 'wheeze honk' noises they make — responding differently to strangers than members of their own social group

HIPPOS: MORE ALERT THAN THEY APPEAR 

When hippos are wallowing in water, they look 'pretty inactive', Professor Mathevon noted.

However, the findings of the team's study reveal that the mammals are actually paying close attention to what is going on in their surroundings.

In fact, they reacted straight away when they heard the recorded call of another hippo being played nearby.

'The responses to the sound signals we broadcast were very clear — and we did not expect that,' Professor Mathevon said. 

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The investigation was undertaken by bioacoustics expert Nicolas Mathevon of the Jean Monnet University in Saint-Étienne, France and his colleagues, who are interested in particular in how animals form communication networks. 

'We found that the vocalizations of a stranger individual induced a stronger behavioural response than those produced by individuals from either the same or a neighbouring group,' Professor Mathevon explained.

'In addition to showing that hippos are able to identify conspecifics based on vocal signatures, our study highlights that hippo groups are territorial entities that behave less aggressively toward their neighbours than toward strangers.'

The team studied hippos in the Maputo Special Reserve in Mozambique, which contains several lakes inhabited by various groups of hippopotamuses.

Professor Mathevon and his colleagues began their research by recording representative calls from each of the different hippo groups in the reserve.

Next, they played these back to all the hippos in order to see how they would react to calls from their own group versus neighbouring groups that lived in the same lake and more and distant groups that lived on other lakes.

The researchers found that when they heard the played-back recordings, the hippopotamuses responded in a variety of

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