Brute, blind, and deaf-mute; but naked mole rats have dialects of their own that they use to identify (and eliminate) intruders
It shouldn’t be easy to tell a galadita of one of the tribe of efrain: both groups had the same clothes, the same ethnic features and the same language. So when war broke out between them and Gilead, they seized the fords of the Jordan River, they had to come up with some way to identify the Ephraimites. It only occurred to them to use the phoneme / ʃ /; that is, the voiceless postalveolar fricative: the ‘sh’ sound.
When someone tried to cross the river, they would ask them to pronounce ‘shibboleth’ (‘spike’ according to some, ‘torrent’ according to others). What the dialect of the tribe of Efrain did not incorporate the ‘sh’, they said ‘sibboleth’ and, in this way, they incriminated themselves. Checkmate, Ephraim.
This is counted in the “Judges Book“But the funny thing is that It is not only an eccentricity of human history, but it also occurs in the animal world. The best example of this are the protagonists of today: the naked mole rats (Heterocephalus glaber)-
These ugly rodents live in colonies of about 300 individuals buried underground. They are practically blind and have no external ears. Perhaps for this reason, it would be expected that if we sneaked an alien mole rat into a colony, it would go almost completely unnoticed. Surprisingly, none of that happens. A few months ago, a team of neuroscientists from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine they discovered what these animals managed to produce a series of chirps specific to each colony: un ‘shibboleth’.
Thanks to this sort of screeching vocalization, individuals can recognize when someone belongs to the colony and when not. Something that, with a social structure similar to those of ants and bees (that is, with a single reproducing “queen rat” and numerous non-reproductive worker rats) having infiltrators at home is a problem of the first order.
Over two years, the team at the Max Delbrück Center examined more than 36,000 “soft chirps” to discover the incredible role they play in coordinating the colony. And incidentally they realized that they were “very xenophobic animals, so they want to make sure they stay within their own tribe, having a dialect is a way to keep the social bond alive “, explained another of the authors Gary Lewin.
Thus they realized the importance of ‘language’ in animals that we least expect, but also that Few things are more dangerous than walking into the wrong mole rat colony without mastering your dialect..
Images | Felix Petermann, MDC