Four Animal Facts: Hearing Edition
Do Cats Enjoy Cat Music?
The answer is yes, cats do enjoy cat music! Read on for details and to learn more quirky facts about hearing in the animal kingdom.
But not so fast: If you were knee high to a long-horn grasshopper, the type known as a katydid, you would not see human ears perched on tiny katydid kneecaps. But the “ears” used by one type of katydid (Copiphora gorgonensis) are remarkably similar to ours. In our case, an internal eardrum captures sound waves, causing faint vibrations. This makes three tiny bones in the inner ear vibrate strongly. The result is waves in the fluid of the cochlea, and these waves are turned into neural impulses for the brain to interpret. Similarly, the katydid’s external eardrum captures sound waves, causing faint vibrations. This makes a tiny plate vibrate strongly. The result is waves in the fluid of something much like our cochlea, and these waves are turned into neural impulses and interpreted as sound.
Dolphins are well known for using echolocation to hear underwater. Using the cavity just below their blowhole, dolphins create whistles, clicks, and other noises. These sounds echo back, and dolphins use the information they get from the echo to learn about the seafloor, water depth, obstacles, prey, predators, and other dolphins. What isn’t so well known is this: The returning sound waves produce pulses in the dolphin’s teeth and jawbone, and then surrounding fats conduct these pulses to the middle ear. In other words, a dolphin’s teeth, jawbone, and surrounding fatty tissue serve the same purpose as our visible outer ear, ear canal, and eardrum!
Elephants Can Talk to Each Other 6 Miles Apart — And You Can’t Hear It
One of the first things you think of when pondering pachyderms is their loud, trombone-like call. But did you know most of their communication among themselves happens using notes at such a low pitch, we can’t hear them? Known as infrasound, these low-frequency noises can be heard by other elephants more than 6 miles away. What do they use infrasound for? Everything from guiding a herd’s movement to warning away competing males during mating season to keeping tabs on a separated calf. Researchers in 2012 finally determined how they accomplish this. Rather than tensing and releasing the muscles in their large voice box, similar to purring, they force air through their voice box, just like we do when we talk or sing.
Can music be used to influence the behavior of cats? Three researchers thought so and developed a theory: Cats naturally communicate using a specific range of frequencies (that is, notes or pitches) and certain tempos. If you played cats some music composed using these frequencies and tempos, they should enjoy it. The researchers composed two cat songs, then sought out cats to play them for. In total, they went to 47 households with cats and played them the two cat songs as well as two classical songs. The cats showed a strong preference for the cat songs, even moving toward or rubbing against the speaker when a cat song was playing. How would your cat react? It probably depends on its age: The young and old cats reacted with the most enthusiasm. The middle-aged cats were more likely to be indifferent.
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