One study found that African penguins use patterns and ways to organize syllables that resemble human speech.
A team of researchers from France and Italy has discovered that calls from African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) conform to the linguistic forms used by humans.
This endangered species of penguin is known for its distinctive calls, which some describe as "braying a donkey."
In the study published in the journalBiology Letters, The scientists describe the vocal recordings of these penguins and what they learned from them: in total they collected and analyzed 590 vocalizations from 28 adult males living in Italian zoos.
Analysis of these vocalizations revealed that the penguins' calls conformed to the two linguistic laws developed to explain how human languages work.
According to experts, people and other animals who communicate concisely are more likely to be successful in tasks such as mating, a skill passed down to offspring.
Spheniscus demersus is often groomed on African coasts to eliminate parasites that are stored in the plumage. They use their legs to preen their head and their beak to remove residues from different parts of their body. They are not aggressive animals, however, on some occasions fights often occur where they carry out chases with their wings open and use their beaks as their main defense weapon. They are very vocal in society, as they use three types of sounds or calls that serve to delimit territory and prevent intruders, attract mates, and finally to be recognized by their chicks in stages of caring for the young.
Reproduction of African penguins
African penguins are monogamous and dig nests on sandy soils, under rocks, or in sparsely vegetated areas.
They gather in the colonies to carry out reproduction and before mating the male performs courtship rituals, movements and vocalizations so that the female accepts him.
African penguins return to the same nesting site each year, which takes place from March to May in South Africa and from November to December in Namibia. The females regularly lay two eggs that will be incubated for a period of approximately forty days. In incubation, the male and female take turns feeding and protecting the egg.
At hatching, the chicks weigh about one hundred grams and are cared for and fed for the next thirty days. While the parents search for food, the young are kept in “nurseries” along with other newborns for protection and warmth, since their feathers do not develop until two or four months.
This species of penguin has an average life span in the wild of twenty-seven years, being a little longer in captivity. The main mortality factors are due to predation, human impact and natural phenomena.
Its natural predators include sea lions, sharks, killer whales, mongooses and seabirds that usually feed on eggs or young.
Reference: Livio Favaro et al. Do penguins ’vocal sequences conform to linguistic laws ?, Biology Letters (2020). DOI: 10.1098 / rsbl.2019.0589