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Researchers unravel the mystery of why wolves howl

Jonathan Marker | Science Recorder | August 23, 2013

Researchers unravel the mystery of why wolves howl

Enduring questions regarding why animals vocalize the way that they do have puzzled scientists for generations.

According to a study entitled “Wolf howling is mediated by relationship quality rather than underlying emotional stress,” which appears in the August 22 edition of the journal Current Biology, the meaning of wolf howling is not that it is a stress response.  Rather, wolf howling is an indicator of the quality of relationships amongst the pack – the sound of which is connected to the level of affection for others, and to loneliness.  The study focused on nine wolves from two packs at Austria’s Wolf Science Center, and the findings highlight the degree to which animal vocal production can be considered controlled.

According to Friederike Range, a researcher at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, “Our results suggest the social relationship can explain more of the variation we see in howling behavior than the emotional state of the wolf.  This suggests that wolves, to a certain extent, may be able to use their vocalizations in a flexible way.”

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