Decoding Animals (02:47)
Neuroscientist Andre Fenton, computer scientist Rana el Kaliouby, and mathematician Talithia Williams explore animal communication on “Nova Wonders.” From whale songs to birds chirping, the animal world is full of mysterious conversations. How do animals communicate, and what are they saying?
Canine Communicators (02:21)
Linguist and competitive sheep herder Robin Queen talks about her connection with her border collie, Zack. Border collies seem to have a sophisticated understanding of human language. Chaser, possibly the world’s smartest dog, knows the names of more than a thousand objects.
Chatty Primates (05:01)
Is language unique to humans? Scientists have been working with our closest relatives for more than half a century to answer that question. Koko the gorilla famously learned American Sign Language, but Kanzi the bonobo may be the Elvis Presley of ape cognition.
Cracking the Chimp Code (07:31)
Researchers have increasingly shifted their focus from teaching animals how to use human language to trying to comprehend animals. Cat Hobaiter has spent more than a decade studying wild chimpanzees in Western Uganda and has deciphered a few of the apes’ gestures.
Spider Love Language (06:59)
People communicate in many ways other than speaking, using all sorts of non-vocal communication, as well. University of California Berkley researcher Damian Elias studies the elaborate movements that jumping spiders use to communicate with one another.
Vocal Learning (05:51)
While spider communication is completely innate, humans learn how to communicate by listening to others. Only a few other animal species learn this way: whales, dolphins, elephants, seals, bats, and some birds. Tel Aviv University’s Yossi Yovel studies bat communication.
Translating Animals (07:23)
University of St. Andrews researcher Ellen Garland studies humpback whale songs, among the most complex forms of animal communication. Like human music, their songs consist of repeated phrases and themes, but only the males sing; and these massive animals show signs of cultural transmission.
Dolphin Speak (04:40)
How would an extraterrestrial begin to decipher the sounds of Earth? Linguist George Zipf plotted the statistical occurrence of words in various languages, revealing that each language follows a similar pattern. Researchers Brenda McCowan and Laurance Doyle apply the principle to dolphin whistles.
Where Does Language Come From? (09:22)
Many believe language is the only remaining trait that separates humans from other animals, there is likely a spectrum of linguistic abilities among animals. Rockefeller University researcher Erich Jarvis has discovered a genetic mutation that impedes the ability of animals to communicate.
Credits: What Are Animals Saying? (01:08)
Credits: What Are Animals Saying?
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