5 Unique Ways Animals Communicate Through Sound


+ Ryan Lott (of Son Lux) teaches how to build custom virtual instruments for sound design and scoring in Designing Sample-Based Instruments.

Sonic communication isn’t something reserved exclusively for human use, like oral language and song. We all know that cats meow, dogs bark, and birds sing, but there are a variety of ways animals use sound to communicate crucial details about their environment and feelings on a daily basis.

Whether you live in a crowded urban cityscape or out in a cabin surrounded by forest, the animal noises occurring all around you each have unique and sometimes fascinating purposes.

Here’s a quick and enjoyable five-minute read detailing some of those funky animal sounds and what it, allegedly, means when you hear them.

But first, a brief related aside, the team here at Soundfly wanted to explore whether our dogs actually understand music similarly to we do, so we did some research. Check out this video, courtesy of our YouTube channel.

1. Bullfrogs croak incredibly loud when they’re looking for love.

These days, lonely singles take to dating apps like Tinder to attract a mate. In the animal kingdom, though, all it takes is a hearty, unique sound to achieve this purpose, and nobody does it quite like the bullfrog. Apparently, some species of bullfrogs croak so loud that their mating noises can be heard up to a mile away. Problem is, these frogs are looking for love in all the swamp places…

2. Some monkeys make different calls to indicate different predators nearby.

Being eaten by predators isn’t something most humans have to worry about, but it’s a pretty big concern for vulnerable animals residing in the middle of the food chain. Tons of primate species sound the alarm when danger is near, but vervet monkeys from eastern Africa have figured out how to make different calls to warn others about specific predators like leopards, eagles, pythons, and baboons. Researchers believe vervet monkeys are capable of producing about 30 different calls, ranging from serious predators to those that merely pose a minor threat.

3. Dolphins make sounds unique to their identities.

Dolphins communicate using intricate patterns involving three forms of sound: whistles, burst-pulsed sounds, and clicks. Whistles are used for communication, while clicks are used for echolocation (and are apparently the loudest sounds made by marine animals). But if that weren’t cool enough, add this to the list: bottlenose dolphins are known to produce their own signature whistles. Some people liken this phenomenon to humans having unique names and vocal signatures, but you know what? I like to think of it as every dolphin having their own theme song to whistle whenever they swim near friends and family, and I think I’m gonna go write myself a theme song.

4. Human musicians aren’t the only creatures that use tremolo.

You might have heard the phrase “crazy like a loon,” but after watching the above video, I think that phrase should change to “musical like a loon.” If you’ve ever camped near a serene lake and heard the wobbly tonal calls of a bird echoing out over the calm water, you might have been listening to the loon’s magic tremolo. When loons feel threatened and want to protect their territory, they’ll produce these strange vocalizations. If only we could get dolphins and loons together in the same body of water, we’d be able to record them and pretend it was the next big experimental band out on the scene.

5. Gorillas hum when dinner is ready and to show they’re happy.

If you’ve ever found yourself humming a meandering tune in between bites of a delicious meal, or for no other reason than being perfectly content, then you, my friend, are taking cues right out of the gorilla playbook. But in a fascinating twist, this behavior has only been observed in captive gorillas, not their wild counterparts.

Captive male gorillas are said to hum especially loud in the presence of females. If that last part sounds like something you do at the bar to meet people, then you might just end up being called a gorilla anyway.

Don’t stop here!

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with artist-led courses by KimbraCom TruiseJlinRyan Lott, and the acclaimed Kiefer: Keys, Chords, & Beats.

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