Jul 21, 2017

Elephant seals recognize signature calls

Mathevon et al. 2017

A new study found male northern elephant seals produce signature rhythmic calls to communicate with their rivals — and navigate their social network.

Why it matters: These are the only non-human mammals known to use rhythm, and the evolution of this type of communication in other species helps to better understand the origins of music among humans.

How they use it: Nicolas Mathevon, one of the study's authors from Université de Lyon/Saint-Etienne in France, said elephant seals "fight [for females] very violently, even to the point of killing one another." Recognizing competitors by the rhythm in their voice allows them to "choose the right strategy" when confronting a rival during mating.

Yes, but... seals most likely use "a multitude of factors to identify each other in a group," not just their calls, according to Caroline Casey, a PhD candidate at the University of California Stanford who participated in the study.

What comes next: Casey said the team is "in the process of tracking young elephant seals throughout their vocal development to see how these individual signatures emerge over time."

Go deeper

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George Floyd protests: Unrest continues for 6th night across U.S.

A protest near the White House on Sunday night. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Most external lights at the White House were turned off late Sunday as the D.C. National Guard was deployed and authorities fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters nearby, per the New York Times.

What's happening: It's one of several tense, late-night standoffs between law enforcement and demonstrators in the United States over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Noam Galai, Jamie McCarthy, Josep Lago/AFP, Alfredo Estrella/AFP, and Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto, all via Getty Images

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 6,181,781 — Total deaths: 372,136— Total recoveries — 2,646,874Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 1,790,191 — Total deaths: 104,383— Total recoveries: 444,758 — Total tested: 16,936,891Map.
  3. Public health: Black Americans' competing crisesCoronavirus looms over George Floyd protests across the country.
  4. 2020: AIPAC conference in March 2021 canceled.
  5. Economy: What U.S. workplaces may look like next — Both part of America's unfinished businessFuture of mobility in post-pandemic world.
  6. World: Former FDA commissioner says "this is not the time" to cut ties with WHO — White House sends 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to Brazil, 1,000 ventilators to come.

Your guide to comparing climate change and coronavirus

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Climate change and the coronavirus have a lot more in common than the letter C, but their differences explain society’s divergent responses to each.

Why it matters: The Internet is full of comparisons, some from biased perspectives. I'm going to try to cut through the noise to help discerning readers looking for objective information.