12 Prairie Dogs Talking To Their Friends By Screaming Into The Abyss
For a long time, the prairie dog "jump-yip" -- a funny little behavior in which a prairie dog rears back on his hind legs, throws his forelegs into the air akimbo, and releases a primal shriek (at least, as primal as a prairie dog can possibly sound) -- was a mystery to scientists. Were the fuzzy critters praising Mother Earth for the glory of the day? Were they trying to cough out a fly that flew up their tiny nostrils? Researchers were baffled.
Happily, the code was cracked just this year, laying to rest a long list of prairie dog speculations. As is turns out, prairie dogs, who lay claim to the most sophisticated vocal language ever decoded, use these characteristic jump-yips as a way to ask neighboring individuals for information regarding their current state of watchfulness -- in other ways, checking whether anyone else is watching out for bad guys.
This, scientists at the e University of Manitoba in Canada found, allowed the prairie dog to spend more time foraging for food instead of keeping watch for predators.
The behavior is incredibly useful for hungry prairie dogs, and it is also incredibly bizarre to look at.
We imagine it sounds to them something like, "HEY GUYS!"
"...Just wanted to make sure you're paying attention."
"...That we're both on the same page here."