We Can Now Identify Each Wolf by Its Howl

New audio analysis should be big help in monitoring packs

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 26, 2013 3:41 PM CDT

(Newser) – Howling wolves may sound alike to us humans, but each howl is distinct—and researchers have for the first time developed a system to tell them apart and identify individuals, reports Nature World News. British scientists at Nottingham Trent University developed software that measures pitch and volume so precisely that it correctly identified wolves 100% of the time in 67 solo howls. Even in group howls, it detected individuals with 97% accuracy.

"In scientific terms this is really exciting, because it means that if we hear a howl on night one we can tell if it is or isn't the same wolf that you hear on subsequent nights," says one of the researchers. That could be a huge help in keeping track of wolf packs because the audio analysis will be cheaper and easier than, say, putting GPS collars on the animals, notes the Conversation blog. Another intriguing detail: The researchers detected a "regional accent" from the howls of wolves in a specific area, reports Wired. (Dolphins may top even that: They appear to have names for each other.)

  (Shutterstock)
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A wolf howl captured for the experiment.   (YouTube)

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