Baby bat babbling strangely resembles a human baby

Language, more than anything else, characterizes human nature. Speech, or the vocal production of language, requires fine control of our vocal articulators, which include the tongue, lips, and jaw.

Each baby is faced with the task of learning to regulate vocal articulators, with enough precision to make spoken sounds. Babbling is when infants begin to produce their first utterances that resemble speech sounds.

Babbling is a pervasive component of a child’s typical growth, regardless of the culture or language to be acquired.

Surprising similarities

(Photo: Photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash)

When Ahana Fernandez and her colleagues walk through the jungles of Central America, they listen to a peculiar sound: high-pitched, incessant chirping and squealing. Large-winged bat puppies make noises (Saccopteryx bilineata).

Despite the fact that they look nothing like the babbling of human newborns, the animal behavior researcher and her colleagues at the Berlin Museum of Natural History (MNH) felt that there was something in common between them. of them.

According to Ahana Aurora Fernandez, the study’s principal investigator, the puppies were observed learning songs from adult males in addition to mimicking noises from adults.

“Bats are interesting creatures with very complicated social behaviors (and) various species live in stable perennial groups throughout their lives,” she said.

“What most people don’t realize is that many species (of bats) have highly developed social vocal communication.” she added.

The noises are surprisingly comparable to the babbling of human infants, down to the endless repetition of a single syllable, the researchers say. As a result, chatty bats could be a useful model species for understanding how some mammals, including humans, develop adult “speech” from their first vocal games.

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Baby bats and human infants

Depending on whether we are talking to newborns or adults, we change our tone of voice. This child-directed speech, commonly referred to as momais, is a unique type of social feedback for the vocalizing child. It has universal characteristics such as a higher pitch, slower tempo, and exaggerated intonation contours.

The puppies were followed from birth to weaning, which takes around 90 days for bats in general. They have a future of seven years. Male and female puppies chatted steadily for about seven weeks, with “long multisyllabic voice group” “chatter sessions” lasting up to 43 minutes at a time.

Adult male bats defend their territory and attract mates by producing complex melodies, similar to those of songbirds. These sounds are made up of 25 unique chained “syllables”. Puppies repeat syllables over and over during infancy, as if they are training for the day when they string them together in whole songs.

According to the researchers, bat puppy chatter exhibited all of the main characteristics of human chatter. It begins early in development, much like in humans, and contains a large number of repeated syllables, a sort of newborn human pronouncing “bababababa”.

And, unlike the “isolation calls” that grabbed the attention of their mothers, vocalizations didn’t seem to be a form of communication. Fernandez describes a babbling puppy as “a relaxed and happy puppy, sitting in the perch all day and training and having fun.”

S. bilineata is the lonely warm-blooded creature known to exhibit chatty behavior and vocal impersonation in spite of people. These similarities in vocal enhancement between S. bilineata and people could provide important experiences for biolinguistic investigations of human language development.

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