Canine club: From wolves to dogs! (1)
Maya: You're listening to Brains On where we're serious about being curious.
Voice: Brains on is supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Molly Bloom: Hey, Sanden.
Maya: Whoa, Sanden, is that mini poodle typing?
Sanden: Hey, Molly. Hey, Maya. Yeah, that's my dog Penelope. She joined some kind of social media app for dogs and she's kinda into it.
Maya: Kind of? She looks obsessed.
Molly: I've never seen a dog type that fast or at all. How did she learn that?
Sanden: Honestly, I don't know but it's a huge problem. She won't let me use the computer for anything else and the weird part is, I don't even know what she's writing. It's just bark, bark, howl, bark, woof, bark, howl.
Molly: It's some kind of phonetic dog language. I wonder what she's saying.
Penelope: Hey Dubs, I saw your page on fetch.com and I had to send you a note. It's so cool to chat with a real, live wolf. Your life must be so cool living in the woods, hunting things, being tough and wolfy. I'm a poodle, so we couldn't be more different.
Dubs: Penelope, hi. [howls] Yeah, I'm a wolf. Living in the woods is pretty cool. I can chase squirrels whenever I want.
Penelope: Wait, I love chasing squirrels too, lol.
Dubs: Really? It's like literally my favorite thing to do with my pack.
Penelope: Hold up, you have a pack? That is so weird because I also have a pack. It's my human, Sanden and some of our favorite house plants. Don't tell Sanden but sometimes I pee on the plants to mark my territory. It's so random, right?
Dubs: I do that too. Wow. We actually have a lot in common.
Penelope: For realsies? I thought it was just me and my canine family that loved a good territory mark.
Dubs: Hold up, Penelope, my family is the canine family too but with a C. Your family must be kanine with a K, right?
Penelope: No, I'm a canine with a C too. Could we-
Dubs: Be very distantly related?
Penelope: -be very distantly related?
[howl and yips]
Molly: This is Brains On from American Public Media. I'm Molly Bloom and with me today is Maya from Maine. Hi Maya.
Maya: Hi Molly.
Molly: We asked you to co-host this wolf-filled episode because you asked us a cunning canine question. What was that question that you sent to us?
Maya: The question was, "Why do we have dogs as pets but not distant relatives of dogs like wolves? ".
Molly: That is a really excellent question. I'm going to answer that in just a bit, but what made you think of this question?
Maya: I thought that wolves and dogs have very similar features.
Molly: I'm guessing you have a dog then?
Maya: Yes, I do. Her name is Luna.
Molly: What kind of dog is she?
Maya: She's a yellow lab.
Molly: Does Luna ever act like a wolf?
Maya: Other than chasing squirrels, no.
Molly: Have you ever seen a wolf in real life?
Maya: No, because if I had I probably would be running away screaming my face off.
Molly: You're a little scared of wolves?
Maya: Absolutely, yeah. (laughs)
Molly: You said you noticed that wolves and dogs have similar features. Can you talk about which features those are that you noticed?
Maya: Muzzles and I think the stature. I also thought it's almost their eyes, they seem wild and exciting, like a certain canine fire.
Molly: Nice. There are so many different kinds of dogs. What dog in your mind is the least wolf-looking?
Molly: Which breed of dog do you think is the most wolf-like?
Maya: Huskies, definitely huskies.
Molly: Well, we are going to answer your question about wolves and dogs in just a bit but first, let's dig into this wolf business.
Collin: Hi, my name is Collin and I'm from Mount Prospect, Illinois. My question is, why do wolves howl and do canines have different vocal cords than humans?
Maya: My name is Maya and I'm Orofino, Idaho. We live in an area where there are lots of wolves. I'd like to know my wolves howl.
Molly: To help us with the answer, we got in touch with two expert wolf watchers.
Dr Holly Root-Gutteridge: Hi, I'm Dr Holly Root-Gutteridge and I'm a researcher at the University of Lincoln.
Dr Arik Kershenbaum: Hey, my name is Dr Arik Kershenbaum and I teach at the University of Cambridge. Most of the time when wolves howl, they're howling to communicate with other wolves that are far away.
Holly: Sometimes they'll howl to say to their friends in the pack who are usually their brothers and sisters and their parents, "Hey, I'm over here. Where are you?"
Wolf 1: Howwwwww are all you tonight? I'm over heeeeeere.
Wolf 2: I'm gooooood. There's a tree over here and I'm going to peeeeee on it.
Wolf 1: Oh, coooooool.
Arik: Maybe you want to call them back so that you can go hunting. Maybe you've managed to do some hunting and you've got some food that you want to share with them.
Holly: Sometimes the pack will come together and howl and warn off other wolves in other packs that, "We're here, this is our land, stay away".
Wolf 1: Howl, keep away.
Wolf 2: Howl, we're soooo big and stroooong.
Wolf 1: And we know kung-fuuuuu.
Holly: Sometimes you get a wolf on its own that will howl to say, "Hey, I'm lonely. Is there anybody else out there who maybe might like me? ", and they'll try to find a mate for the next season by howling to other wolves in the area.
Arik: There's another reason that wolves howl, and that's just because they like it and that's not as silly as it sounds because all animals that live in groups, monkeys and parrots and humans, all have some activity that they use to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the members of the group.
Holly: If you think about singing in a choir, I think it's like that for them.
Wolf 3: Everybody ready? On three, one, two, three.
Holly: They just really enjoy the experience of sharing their voices with the rest of the pack and coming together as a family for a good sing-song.
Arik: For that matter, when your dog sings along to the music of your favorite TV show because he or she is sitting in a group of this family and wants to feel a part of the group.
Wolf 3: That was great. Nice singing everyone.
Wolf 2: Really? I thought I was a little sharp.
Wolf 3: The only thing sharp about you are your razor sharp fangs, pal.
Wolf 2: You're the best pack mate.
Wolf 3: No, you're the best.
Automated voice: Brains, brains, brains on.
Jade: Hi, I'm Jade. That was me playing my clarinet and my dog howling to it, bye.
Molly: Thank you for that awesome sound Jade. Now Maya, I'm sorry to say we don't have a dog here to accompany you in studio but we do have a fun little game. Get ready for some fantastic howl facts. I'm going to give you three statements and your job is to guess which one is true. Are you ready?
Automated voice: Number one.
Molly: Howls always start in the key of C.
Automated voice: Number two.
Molly: Wolves in different parts of the world howl with different accents or-
Automated voice: Number three.
Molly: -wolves only howl when the moon is out.
Maya: I think that two is correct.
Molly: The answer is...
Holly: Like humans have accents from where they're born, wolves are the same and if you have a Californian wolf or a Canadian wolf, they'll sound different to each other when they howl.
Automated voice: Number two.
Molly: You were correct. Nice work.
Molly: As far as we can tell, it's just a myth that wolves howl at the moon. They do tend to howl at night, so maybe that's where that idea comes from and sadly, wolves don't always howl in the key of C but that would make harmonizing with them so much easier. Arik Kershenbaum says, you can tell where a wolf is from by the changes in the pitch and frequency in its howl.
Arik: This is a timber wolf.
Arik: You can hear that the pitch starts high and then it goes down and then it steps down again. This is a European wolf.
Arik: It's very flat. It's just the same pitch all the way along. We don't really know why wolves in different places sound different. It may be because they are actually quite different so they have different genetics and they've been subject to different evolution. It could be because in different landscapes, different kinds of howls are more useful. If you live in a forest, it may be better to howl with a howl that goes up and down a lot more and if you live in the open Arctic, it might be better to howl with a howl that's a very constant pitch.
Teacher: Hello. Welcome to Howling 101. If you plan to study wolves, you need a good howl. That way, you can call out to the animals in the wild and hopefully get a reply, which, honestly, I wish would work for people. Why won't you answer my text, Jasper? We need to practice our competitive synchronized knitting or we'll lose the big yarn tournament. (clears throat)
Where was I? Oh, yes, when wolves howl back, researchers can better track them and study them. So without further ado, we proudly present Howling 101 with Dr Holly Root-Gutteridge.
Holly: The way I got taught was if you cup your hands around your mouth, take a really deep breath, and then start low and go high. Think about how movie wolves howl and try to imitate that a little bit. Try to do it like you're singing almost. I'm a little out of practice. It's been a little while since I've done this and I won't do it full volume because my neighbors will complain. This is how I would try to do a wolf howl [howls]. I actually really like listening to them just howl. I think it's beautiful.
Teacher: Brilliant, Jasper wrote back too, "Sorry, I was at the store picking up new knitting needles. Practice tonight?" Yarn doodle! Excuse me. Now, on with the show.
Molly: So wolves and humans have very similar vocal cords so that's why we can also howl. Maya, do you want to try howling with me? I promise it won't be weird. Maybe a little weird, but it's going to be great. Are you ready?
Molly: Cup your hands and put them on the sides of your mouth. Then on the count of three, we're going to howl. One, two, three.
Molly: Nice howl.
Maya: Thank you.
Molly: Coming up, we're going to learn more about wolf packs and dens.
Maya: And we'll get to my question about wolves and dogs, so stick around.
Molly: You know, a good leader is one that is focused on growth, has strong roots in its community and always gives plenty back.
Maya: Which is exactly what plants do.
Molly: Precisely. That's why we think a plant might make a good president. We want your slogans for these lean, green world-saving machines. Maya, can you give us an example?
Maya: Sure. I'm a plant and you can't live without me, seriously.
Molly: That was good! Very persuasive. I would vote for you.
Maya: Thank you. [laughs]
Molly: We're doing an episode all about the secret world of plants and we want your slogans for it. Record yourself giving us your best pitch for plants as president then go to brainson.org and send it our way.