Recordings of short-beaked echidnas talking to one another have been captured by Curtin University researchers.
The rare recordings of the monotremes grunting, cooing and wheezing are described to be a scientific first, with Curtin researchers saying these recordings provide important insight into the lives of echidnas.
Dr Christine Cooper, along with other Curtin researchers, were observing wild short-beaked echidnas at Dryandra National Park near Narrogin when the recordings were obtained.
The team left a camera and microphone unattended at an entrance of a cave Echidnas frequented.
Dr Cooper says the sounds are made very rarely and only recorded during breeding season.
“So, although we don’t know the purpose or understand the meaning of the short-beaked echidna’s grunting and cooing, we have only heard them from adult animals during the breeding season, suggesting echidnas only find their voice when reproductively active.”
Dr Cooper says there has been ongoing scientific debate about the echidna’s ability to make noise. Some argue the echidna’s sounds are simply to do with the animal’s breathing, while others say it may have to do with communication with other animals.
She says this discovery could help solve that debate, as well as other scientific debates revolving around when early mammals began communicating through sound.
“If both monotremes and other mammals vocalise, this suggests that the common ancestor of these two evolutionary lineages could also vocalise,” Dr Cooper says.