How do ducks learn to say “you damn fool”


In 1987, a Researchers in Australia recorded a male musk duck named Ripper. It made a sound that sounded like “you damn fool”, and made a sound similar to a slamming door and a soft grunt. The second duck in the area was recorded in 2000 to imitate the call of the Pacific Black Duck. Both recordings have been preserved, but no detailed analysis has been carried out. Most of the accompanying recordings were destroyed in the wildfires that swept through the Tibbimbila Nature Reserve in 2003.

The retired original researcher Peter J. Fullagar and Carel Ten Cate, a biologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, conducted the first in-depth analysis of these recordings. The analysis confirmed that the unique vocalization of the Ripper is indeed a form of imitation-this may be the first fully documented example of the musk duck being able to imitate sounds.The researchers described their findings in a report New article Published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Part of a special issue of animal and human sound learning.

The definition of what constitutes so-called vocal learning may be different, but if the vocalization of an animal raised in isolation is completely different from the typical characteristics of the species or can imitate the sounds of other species, then these are regarded as evidence phenomena. Vocal learning is essential to human speech and language development, but only a few animal species have confirmed this, especially whales, dolphins, bats, elephants, songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds.

The musk duck gets its name from the pungent smell produced by males during the mating season. Males are usually three times larger than females and have a large black leaf under the bill, which can be in a loose or “swollen” state. The male mating display may involve raising and lowering the tail and kicking sideways and back with the feet to create a lot of splashes in the water. As we all know, males make whistling sounds and show off their swollen leaves to attract females. The musk duck is the only living member of its specific genus, and has only distant relatives with other birds that can imitate sounds by vocalizing.

Lonely boy

Males are so aggressive that musk ducks are rarely kept in captivity, but the Ripper is an exception. He hatched from an egg in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in southwest Canberra in September 1983. A foster hen is responsible for incubating the eggs, but after hatching, the ripper is raised and fed by artificial breeders alone.

When he was a few weeks old, the Ripper was transferred to a small pond along with other captive waterfowl, and was later locked in a small fence, hidden by bushes, from the public. According to the author, this pen is divided into two spaces, connected by a hole below the water level. Two female ducks from another protected area can pass through these holes, but Ripper cannot. When Ripper made his legendary voice, the female was in the adjacent space.

From July 19 to 26, 1987, when Musk Duck was 4 years old, Fullagar recorded Ripper with a Sony Walkman Professional cassette recorder and Sennheiser MKH 816 microphone. Sounds include the bang of the door (Huhuhuhuhuhu) Imitate the opening and closing of a double-hung spring door near the place where the Ripper was held in the first few weeks after hatching. Sometimes, after the bang of the door closed, there will be a soft grunt that sounds like it is talking, but there is no obvious word.The funniest voice sounds like the Ripper is saying: “You damn fool!”-Recorded when Fulaga is nearby, “Because this is the way to anger [Ripper] Enter the show,” the author wrote.

These recordings are kept in the National Wildlife Collection of Australia, but have not been noticed by researchers for decades until ten Kates heard of them. “When I first read about it, I thought,’This is a scam, it can’t be true,'” 10 Cate Tell protector“But it turns out to be true.”


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