Linking Communication and Cooperation: Lessons from the Naked Mole-Rat

Session Date: 
Mar 3, 2023

Highly organized social groups require well-structured and dynamic communication systems. Naked mole-rats form some of the most rigidly structured social groups in the Animal Kingdom, exhibiting eusociality, a type of highly cooperative social living characterized by a reproductive division of labor with a single breeding female, the queen. Recent work from our group identified a critical role for vocal communication in the organization and maintenance of naked mole-rat social groups. Using machine learning techniques we demonstrated that one vocalization type, the soft chirp, encodes information about individual identity and colony membership. Colony specific vocal dialects can be learned early in life--pups that were cross-fostered acquire the dialect of their adoptive colonies. We also demonstrate that vocal dialects are influenced in part by the presence of the queen. Here, I summarize these findings and highlight our current work investigating how social and vocal complexity evolved in parallel in closely related species throughout the Bathyergidae family of African mole-rats.

File 2023_03_03_08_Barker.mp4505.64 MB