Tornadoing feces from your rectum may be a contentious way for humans to respond to strangers, but it appears to be the preferred method for hippos. That is one among the takeaways from new (and critical) research into hippopotamuses’ social habits, which discovered that these imposing danger cows can distinguish one other’s calls. They will answer in a chorus of honky honky hippos when they hear the “wheeze honk” of nearby hippos. Strangers are greeted with a cyclone of potent feces if they do not recognize the call (as demonstrated here). That is a bold assertion.
The new report, which was published in the journal Current Biology, suggests that hippos can recognize each other’s voices and would adjust their behavior accordingly. A polite honk will give to familiar hippos, while the more aggressive poo-nado response will be reserved for outsiders. In a statement, Nicolas Mathevon of the University Of Saint-Etienne, France, said, “We discovered that the vocalizations of a stranger evoked a higher behavioral response than those produced by people from either the same or an adjacent group.”
“Our work underlines that hippo groups are territorial entities that behave less aggressively toward neighbors than strangers, in addition to demonstrating that hippos can recognize conspecifics based on vocal patterns.” The researchers concentrated their findings on a group of hippos in the Maputo Special Reserve in Mozambique, where hippos can be found in various lakes. They recorded each hippo group’s cries and then played them back to other groups to see how they reacted.
They would respond verbally to familiar calls, but dung-spraying responses triggered by strangers’ calls. Poo-flinging is a habit associated with hippos marking territory in addition to being a touch icky. If you envision your reaction to an Airbnb listing with visible poo in the preview shots, it is quite effective. The findings could have ramifications for hippo management in terms of reducing hostility when transporting large groups of animals.
“One precaution may be to broadcast their voices via a loudspeaker to the groups already present before shifting a group of hippos to a new site so that they become accustomed to them and their antagonism gradually reduces,” Mathevon said. “Another option is reciprocity, in which the animals to be moved acquire acclimated to the voices of their new neighbors before they arrive.” The team’s next goal is to crack the hippo honk code and figure out what qualities enable these animals to distinguish between who they should say “hello” to and who they should avoid.