It's difficult to conceive of a world in which humans have no names; what we're called is integral to who we are. But is it the same for animals? According to a new book by science writer and Dodo community contributor Virginia Morell, it is -- for parrots, at least. Radiolab explored her findings:
Scientist Karl Berg has constructed a bunch of [green-rumped parrotlet] parrot nests on a Venezuelan ranch, and he's got mini-cams in those nests recording everything these little birds do. As you'll hear, they peep a lot... Berg has listened to so many parrots in so many nests for so long, he has been able to identify that weeks after birth, these little birds begin to use very specific peeps to identify themselves to others. Not only that, they learn the peeping "names" of their parents, brothers, sisters, and use them in conversation, as in, "Peep-duh-dee-Peep, is that you?"
Berg explains to Morell in the book that parent parrots likely name their children, just as human parents do. Those names stick for life, and become an important part of how parrots identify themselves and interact with one another. But the birds aren't alone -- dolphins also communicate with clicks and whistles that they understand as names. It's only now that we're coming to understand and use those names as well.