Brian Browdie of the New York Daily News reports:
Humans, elephants and dolphins do it, and apparently goats do, too.
The horned ruminants pick up accents as they get older and join social groups, according to researchers at Queen Mary University, London, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.
Experts previously thought only a select group of mammals has the ability to modify vocal sounds according to their surroundings, and that other species’ “voices” were determined solely by genetics. Whales and bats pick up accents as well.
The researchers recorded the bleats of four groups of pygmy goats at one week old, when kids, as young goats are known, from the same litter remain with one another, and again at five weeks old, when they form social groups with other goats of the same age.
Not surprisingly, the study found genetically related kids produced similar calls. But it found the vocal calls of goats raised in the same social groups also became more similar as the kids grew older.
“This suggests that goat kids modify their calls according to their social surroundings, developing similar ‘accents,’” said Dr. Elodie Briefer, one of the researchers.
Briefer said she and her colleagues don’t know whether other mammals may be able to form accents, but suggested that if goats’ calls can be affected by their environment maybe all mammals’ calls could be too.