Sooner or later it happened to everyone to spend a holiday with a relative or a friend who lives in another region, and come back home with a marked and different cadence. This experience is not typically "human": it also happens to young goats that spend whole days in cohesive groups of peers.
During the second month of life the wild kids come out of the bush (where they hide to avoid predators) and reach other specimens of the same age in a group called "nursery school", supervised by one or more females.
To test how the particular social organization influences the way these animals communicate, Elodie Briefer and Alan McElligott of Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the University of London analyzed the verses of 23 young specimens of pygmy goat, sons of the same father but of different mothers, to reduce the influence of genetic origin. The kids were divided into 4 different mixed groups, consisting of 5-7 specimens. The researchers tested the vocal repertoire of animals at one week of age, when they were still living with their mother, and at five weeks, the period in which wild goats normally begin to attend groups of peers.
If the genetically similar goats produce similar bleating, also the bleating of the goats grown in the same group resembled each other, and became even more similar with the passage of time. A sign that, in the development of a form of communication, the genetic contribution counts, but the time that each specimen spends with its peers is even more relevant.
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Each group thus showed a particular and recognizable accent: the proof that the goats know how to adapt their bleats to the social environment in which they live, a rare ability typical of men, whales, dolphins and bats. The different accents could function as "identification badges" to access the different groups: if a goat loses sight of his own, he will have an extra tool to find him and to be recognized. A nice social glue.
This ability may be more prevalent among mammals than one might think. Other ungulates may also have particular accents, and further studies will have to shed light on the subject.