September 21, 2013 5:10 AM   Subscribe

A study [PDF] by CUNY Professor Diana Reiss and Rachel Morrison (Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience Subprogram in Psychology The Graduate Center of CUNY) was published last week in Zoo Biology detailing for the first time a whisper‐like behavior in a non‐human primate, the cotton top tamarin at the Central Park Zoo.

When exposed to a supervisor who had previously elicited a mobbing response, rather than exhibiting that and producing loud human‐ directed mobbing calls, the tamarins exhibited other anti‐predator behaviors and produced low amplitude vocalizations that initially eluded the scientists' detection. A post‐hoc analysis of the data was conducted to test a new hypothesis—the tamarins were reducing the amplitude of their vocalizations in the context of exposure to a potential threat. Consistent with whisper‐like behavior, the amplitude of the tamarins’ vocalizations was significantly reduced only in the presence of the supervisor.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Scientists have now determined the Tamarins were whispering, "I can't believe that asshole came back."
posted by grimjeer at 6:03 AM on September 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

My aunt was one of the first people to breed cotton top tamarins in captivity and many of the ones in zoos are descendants of her troop, which lived in her house and which I used to hang out with all the time when I was a kid. Didn't think I'd ever get the chance to mention that on MetaFilter.
posted by escabeche at 6:06 AM on September 21, 2013 [22 favorites]

Mod note: I think the PDF link is fixed now
posted by taz (staff) at 6:11 AM on September 21, 2013

Often when I see report of a scientific paper about some interesting new behavior observed in cotton tops, I'll e-mail her a link, and she usually writes back "Yeah, they do that."
posted by escabeche at 6:19 AM on September 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I swear my dog whispers. She has both a "woo" and a "bark" that are as much breathy exhalations as they are sounds.

I don't use an alarm clock... For 4 years the Husky got up with me at 6 am, me and dog got ready and went to work (she went with me). I no longer have to get up at 6 am, but the pup still has that timer set. But... Wife does NOT like to get up at 6 am, and I honestly believe the pup is aware of that. Every day, within a few minutes of six am I hear a little wooooo from the pup sleeping on the end of the bed, enough to wake me up, the wife tends to sleep through it. If we're up and about, and she needs attention, her first vocalization is typically a bark that is only breath...all the movements and control are the same, but it is truly a whisper. If that doesn't work she escalates to a little bark, then a louder one.. (then, if I'm foolish enough to continue to ignore her, she gets out those deadly little pinchy teeth in the front, sticks her snout in my side below my ribs, and reminds me just how painful that little pinch can be).
posted by HuronBob at 6:21 AM on September 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Over two decades ago, Krebs and Dawkins [1984] predicted the evolution and use of “conspiratorial whispers,” short‐range signals with decreased amplitudes, in other highly cooperative species.
Mammals conspiring against mammals - that's some shameful shit right there.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:32 AM on September 21, 2013

Crows got their first by actively lying to other crows. I'm pretty sure deceit is up there with sharing for " first things social animals learn."
posted by The Whelk at 6:48 AM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are many situations in which my dog simply refuses to bark loudly (at a normal level for dogs, that is), even wh, and will only softly "woof". Oftentimes this is when we're in crowds. In fact, sometimes in crowds he refuses the commands SPEAK and QUIET entirely. He doesn't tend to refuse when we're alone, or in small groups.

I've always assumed this was his version of whispering.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:17 PM on September 23, 2013

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