Animals can be receptive to music, especially when it comes to courtship. Researchers have found that the males of the rock hyrax species most likely to reproduce are those that can sing in rhythm.
The rock hyrax is an amazing mammal in more ways than one. It has a wide-ranging acoustic repertoire, from grunts and wails to snorts and squeals. This complex range of calls and vocalizations plays a key role in the reproduction of this species, as German and Israeli scientists affirm in a recent study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.
Over the course of a decade, the research team observed the daily morning activity of several communities of rock hyraxes in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve in Israel. They noticed that the songs of these mammals are similar to regional dialects. Animals that live in close proximity to each other tend to produce similar sounds.
Slaves to the Rhythm
But this is not the only way that these animals use music. The rhythm of the males’ mating songs gives females valuable clues as to their reproductive abilities. The biologists found that males that are able to maintain a stable isochronous rhythm — in other words, to “sing well” — generally have more offspring than their counterparts. “Song rhythms and stability are related to reproductive success and thus potentially hold information about individual quality,” explains Dr Lee Koren, co-author of the study and a researcher at the Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University.
Rock hyraxes are not the only animals with a sense of rhythm. Elephant seals also seem to have a sense of rhythm, as do indris, the large lemurs that live only in Madagascar.