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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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Art installation uses 15,000 discarded plastic bottles

News Story 1
 London Zoo has unveiled a new art installation made from 15,000 discarded single-use plastic bottles, all of which were collected from London and its waterways. The installation, dubbed the Space of Waste, is 16ft tall and was created by the artist and architect Nick Wood. It houses information about plastic pollution and the small steps that everyone can take to tackle the issue.

Mr Wood commented: “Building this piece with ZSL was a satisfying challenge, as plastic bottles are not usually seen as a building material – recycling them into this structure, which will remain at ZSL London Zoo all summer, was a great way to turn the culprits themselves into a stark visual reminder of the worsening plastic problem in our city.” Image © David Parry/PAWIRE/ZSL 

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Strategic alliance to support development of agri-food sector

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Queen’s University Belfast have formed a new strategic alliance that will see both institutions form a research and education partnership.

Under the agreement, the organisations will pool their resources and expertise to support the development of the agri-food sector. It will work across three core themes: enabling innovation, facilitating new ways of working and partnerships.