Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
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Sporting Prairie Dogs


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Do prairie dogs do The Wave?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Saying, Yup!  Or rather Yip!

Prairie dogs, which are actually a type of rodent, live in towns of dozens of families.  They share resources, watch each others’ backs – And, sometimes, do something that humans reserve for sports events.  An individual springs into the air, forelimbs held high, and screams "WEE-oo" as if celebrating a touchdown.  This triggers neighbors to do the same, and it spreads through town like The Wave through a stadium.  What gives?

Enter James Hare from the University of Manitoba.  He videotaped prairie dog towns in Canada and the U.S. and noticed a pattern.  Prairie dogs that initiated the so-called yip behavior foraged more than usual right afterwards.  And they kept grazing so long as others caught the wave.  When a wave fizzled? They stopped eating.

Hare thinks yips measure group vigilance.  Only alert neighbors can participate.  Spark a strong wave?  Folks are paying attention to their surroundings.  Any hungry predators will be spotted.  

So it's a good time to eat some bugs!  Hot dogs with yellow mustard optional.