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Universal ‘code’ connects humans and animals - study
Researchers found there might be a universal code for the perception of emotion of animals.
Researchers suggest acoustic emotions exist across all vertebrates

Humans can identify emotions in the voices of all air-breathing vertebrates, a new study has found.

Writing in the journal Proceeding of the Royal Society B, researchers show there might be a universal code for the vocal expression and perception of emotions of animals.

Previous work found that humans can identify emotions in the voices of different mammals. In this new study, researchers expanded the results to include amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

The study was conducted by researchers at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, and Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from Alberta, Canada, and Vienna, Austria.

“The findings suggest that fundamental mechanisms for the acoustic expression of emotions exist across all classes of vertebrates,” the authors conclude. “The evolutionary roots of this signal system might be shared by all vocalising vertebrates.

They continue: “This finding goes in the direction of what Charles Darwin suggested more than a century ago, namely that acoustic expressions of emotion can be traced back to our earliest land-dwelling ancestors.”

In the study, researchers employed 75 individuals whose native language was English, German or Mandarin. The participants listened to audio recordings on nine different species of land-living vertebrates in the classes mammals, amphibians and reptiles. The latter group included birds and other reptiles.

Participants were able to differentiate between high and low levels of arousal in the acoustic signals of all animal classes. To do this, they mainly relied on frequency-related parameters in the signals. 

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Endangered turtles rescued from smugglers

News Story 1
 A group of endangered turtles have found a new home at London Zoo after being rescued from smugglers.

The four big-headed turtles arrived at the zoo at the end of last year, after smugglers tried to illegally import them to Canada, labelled as toys.

One of the turtles, named Lady Triệu after a Vietnamese warrioress, has moved to a new exhibit in the zoo’s reptile house. She is the only one of her kind in a UK zoo.

Big-headed turtles have such large heads that they cannot pull them back into their shells. To compensate, they have armour plating from head to tail and a very sharp beak to fend off predators. They are ranked number 18 on ZSL’s EDGE of Existence reptile list, which puts threatened species at the forefront of conservation action. Image © ZSL  

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RCVS Fellowship board chair elections get underway

Voting for the 2019 RCVS Fellowship Chair election is now underway. This year four candidates are standing for election, including Dr Robert Huey, Professor John Innes, Professor Liz Mossop and Professor Ian Ramsey.

The Chair will attend and preside over Fellowship meetings and take the lead in consolidating the Fellowship’s position as the learned society of the RCVS. Fellows will receive an email containing a link to the online voting form, as well as candidates’ details and manifestos. Voting closes at 5pm on Thursday, 5 September.