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Hippopotamuses are very vocal animals, although we know little about why they make so much noise.
According to new research, hippos can even recognize their pals’ voices when they’re recorded and played by a loudspeaker.
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For five of the seven groups studied, the researchers played back calls from three types of individuals:
- Hippos from the same group
- Neighbor hippos living in the same lake
- Complete strangers
They focused on one type of call dubbed the “wheeze honk” — a low rumble that travels over long distances. This call is thought to play an important role in hippo social bonding.
Here’s one group responding to a call:
When the voices of unfamiliar hippos played over the speaker, the animals listening would respond with more aggression than they did with the calls of group members or neighbors.
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Knowing this, researchers say, could potentially help with hippo conservation efforts.
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Relocating hippos can be a challenge because they are incredibly territorial.
But finding a way to make hippos more comfortable with strangers could start with exposing them to the outsider’s voice.
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“One precaution might be to broadcast their voices from a loudspeaker to the groups already present so that they become accustomed to them and their aggression gradually decreases.”