Bill Rancic Defends His Wife Giuliana After Fashion Police Controversy: 'I Tried to Get Them to Release the Footage' 42 years, 2,191 covers and 55,436 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Triplets at Center Of Surrogate Baby Custody Battle Now Living with Biological Dad and 'Doing Fine,' Says Attorney
- Read the Cover Story: Prince, 1958-2016
- Devoted Jehovah's Witness Prince Kept a Swear Jar at Paisley Park: 'He Wasn't Joking,' Says Congregation Member
- Julie Solomon Schaech's Blog: Inside the Great Preschool Debate – When You're a 'Didn't Occur to Me' Parent
- Kelly Ripa Wears Wedding Dress on 20th Anniversary Vacation: 'It Was the Best $199 I've Ever Spent'
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- November 24, 1997
- Vol. 48
- No. 21
Do Prairie Dogs Talk? One Professor Thinks So
All this dialogue is guaranteed verbatim—but only if Prof. Con Slobodchikoff is correct in his translations of the squeaking, chittering sounds that prairie dogs use to communicate. "Here's an animal that is a lowly rodent and yet seems to have language with these complicated structures," says Slobodchikoff, 53, a biology professor at Northern Arizona University who has spent nearly 10 years studying a one-acre prairie dog colony near Flagstaff, observing the residents and recording their sounds. "It is possible that other species have languages of their own."
The son of Russian emigré parents, Slobodchikoff, who was born in Shanghai and moved to San Francisco in 1949, traces his fascination with language to the culture shock of trying to decipher U.S. newspaper headlines as a youngster. "I remember reading one that said, 'Giants Stomp Cincinnati,' " he says. "I wondered what kind of country we had come to." His interest in prairie dogs, on the other hand, started in '86: "They are, after all, right in my backyard."
By converting the prairie dog sounds he records to sonograms, and using a computer to correlate them with observations of events happening at the time, Slobodchikoff claims to have identified about 50 words. Prairie-dog lingo, he says, can distinguish colors, shapes and sizes, as well as tell a coyote from a German shepherd and a man from a woman. "The more dangerous they perceive an animal to be," he says, "the more individuals chime in."
Does Slobodchikoff's work have any real-world use? "With the aid of computers we may one day be able to communicate with other animals," he says. "Like reason with your Jack Russell who pees on the furniture."
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!