Scientists Now Claim Penguins Chatter Just Like Humans Do

This is fascinating!

When you or I speak to a friend or a loved one, our speech patterns are more casual. We use a lot of short words. In fact, CNN reports that "in most human languages, the most frequently used words are short." They reference the words "a," "of," and "the," specifically.

According to scientists from the University of Torino in Italy in a report released in February 2020, penguins also utilize the same type of speech pattern. The researchers behind the study observed the display songs of African penguins specifically. The display song is what the flightless birds use for recognition of other penguins, mate selection, and defending their territory.

Two African penguins hugging on rock at Boulders Beach
Bruno Guerreiro/Getty Images

As reported by British newspaper, The Independent, "The animals follow two main laws - that more frequently used words are briefer (Zipf's law of brevity), and longer words are composed of extra but briefer syllables (the Menzerath-Altmann law)."

The study, published in the Biology Letters journal, suggests that this is the first major finding of its kind, and that they've proven that the endangered African penguin exhibits both of these laws in communication. The authors of the study have stated: "This is the first compelling evidence for conformity to linguistic laws in vocal sequences of a non-primate species.

As predicted, we found that the duration of the syllables was inversely correlated with the frequency of occurrence."

In layman's terms, they found that penguins most regularly used short words to communicate with one another, much like we do. This is not the first shared trait between humans and penguins to be discovered. We know that they also choose to be in monogamous relationships. Now we're left to wonder what it is they say to one another in those short syllables?

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