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Animal Sounds and Communication

October 15, 2000

Scientists know how difficult a task it would be for a Dr. Doolittle to truly talk with the animals, for each animal has its unique and often sophisticated method of communication. Crocodiles make special calls and bellows, bats and whales use sound to navigate and insects can communicate in such varied ways as touching antennae, emitting chemicals or producing supersonic sounds that are beyond a person's hearing. Discover the many ways animals communicate as well as real-life research of people trying to talk with animals through these direct links on The Times Launch Point Web site:

Level 1

Sea World Animal Sounds Library: From anteaters and gorillas to dolphins and beluga whales, listen to a wide range of animals as you view photos and learn fun facts.

Echo the Bat: How can bats fly and find food when it's pitch dark? Read an illustrated story that explains how bats can "see" with their ears. By making sounds and listening to echoes, bats can sense their surroundings in a process called echolocation.

NOVA Online: Dances with Bees: Bees communicate important information such as the location, quality and quantity of a food supply through dances and sounds. See videos that demonstrate bee dances and get a chance to interpret what a bee's dance means.

Level 2

NatureSongs: Learn interesting facts about animals, from crickets and bats to hummingbirds and rattlesnakes, while listening to this extensive collection of animal sounds and calls.

Crocodiles Revealed: Did you know that crocodiles are the most vocal of all reptiles and that they even call out before they are hatched from their eggs? Learn more about this fascinating animal and hear examples of "crocodilian" calls and bellows.

Long Distance Calls: Voices of the Great Whales: Play a game of "Name That Rumble" as you get acquainted with whale calls, learn how the whale's extremely good hearing is crucial for both communication and survival needs and discover how man-made noise pollution in oceans is a concern.

Level 3

The Why Files: The Music of Sound: Have bird songs inspired some classical music compositions? Read what some scientists who are studying the "soundscape" of nature think about birds as instrumentalists, frogs who use sound to confuse predators and how animal voices can form a type of orchestra of sound.

Orkin Insect Zoo: Insect Communication: Insects can communicate with each other through touch, sound, chemicals and visual signals such as firefly flashes of light or ultraviolet color patterns on butterfly wings.

ZooGoer: Animals and Language: This interesting collection of articles discusses forms of animal communication, explains the debate of scientists on whether animal communication can be considered true language and describes various research efforts in teaching animals human languages, including teaching a chimpanzee American Sign Language.


The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.

How does a bee indicate that there is food less than 35 feet away from the hive?

CLUE: See NOVA Online: Dances with Bees

Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point covers more than 100 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week's Quest: If Al's father is 45 years old and is 15 years more than TWICE Al's age, Al is 15 years old.


Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This column was designed by Nadya Forjan, Leslie Sandoval, Luci Gilkey and Anna Manring.

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