Say What?

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A prairie dog's chirping may sound like a basic alarm call but Con Slobodchikoff says it’s so much more. He’s a professor emeritus of biology at Northern Arizona University and he’s been recording and studying these sounds for 30 years.

Con Slobodchikoff So we know that they can produce calls for dogs, for humans, for coyotes, red tail hawks, for badgers. We know they can describe the physical features of humans and dogs - the size and shape and for dogs the general size and shape. For humans they can describe the color of the cloths and the coat color of the dog.

Con Slobodchikoff has spent time in prairie dog towns with researchers and analysing hours of tape to find out what prairie dogs say.

Not too long ago he discovered the last piece of evidence that proves, he says, that prairie dogs “speak” a language. We’ll get to that in a minute. but let’s start by hearing how he figured out that prairie dogs do indeed talk to each other.

First aired August 16, 2010