By JEFFERY HAWKINS | The Washington Post | March 19, 2018 12:24:37AM EST The sound of a dog barking, the crunch of snow on a snow-covered hillside, a flock of birds singing overhead: They’re all sounds that can be heard by dogs, but not to their owners.
But that’s what researchers at the University of Michigan are hoping to change by introducing the first turkeys in the United States to do so.
“Turkeys are among the most familiar dogs in the world, so it’s really exciting to be able to bring them into the modern world,” said Dr. Michael G. Miller, who led the study with his colleague Andrew D. Bogaerts, a doctoral candidate in animal behavior.
The study, published in Current Biology, was the first to combine sound with a turkeys body language in an experiment that involved a dog.
It’s the first time researchers have been able to use sound and a turkey to mimic a human’s body language, Miller said.
“This is a very exciting development because it will give us a better understanding of how dogs perceive sound,” Miller said in a news release.
“It will be a game changer for dogs and their owners.”
The research team included scientists from Michigan and Germany, including a graduate student in Miller’s lab, Dr. Alexandra Langer, who also helped design the turkeys.
They worked in conjunction with researchers at Pennsylvania State University, the University at Buffalo, the California Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Behavioral Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Pennsylvania Museum of Art and the University’s Center for Applied Social Science.
“Humans and dogs are closely related, so the more we learn about our relationship with our dogs, the better we can understand how dogs relate to each other and to each human,” said Bogaets, who is also a graduate assistant professor in the University College London’s Department of Psychology.
The research is part of a broader effort to understand how human behavior and the brain work together.
In other words, the researchers hope to learn about how our brains interpret sound and sound cues.
Turkeys are one of about 400 species of domesticated dogs, most of them in North America.
Miller said it was important to start with the idea that dogs and humans have similar sound-recognition systems and that it’s important to understand that humans are able to perceive the sounds of animals that are far removed from us.
Miller and his colleagues studied the vocalizations of a group of turkeys at a sanctuary that has been breeding and raising turkeys since 1999.
Miller’s team used a new technique to analyze how the turkey’s body voice changed when it was being trained to respond to a series of tones: The sound that was being played by a trained turkeys voice was paired with the tones in the turquoise background, the turque, the tone, and a tone-like tone.
The researchers then played back the sounds and found that each of the tones that the turkees were using in their vocalizations differed in frequency with the tone in the background.
Miller called that phenomenon “tuning.”
Miller and colleagues found that the more that each tone was tuned into the background, “the higher the tone frequency became, and the lower the frequency of the tone,” according to the study.
“The turkeys also changed their frequency response when they heard a tone in a different frequency range, but that response did not change the tone of the background tone,” Miller explained.
In the study, the animals were trained on a series for five days.
“We did a bunch of tasks, and we got to see them learn to distinguish between tones,” Miller told The Associated Press.
The scientists then played the recordings of the turking and listening to the tones back to the dogs, using a microphone placed in a cage.
The turkeys’ responses varied in frequency and in intensity, as did their body language.
The team was able to distinguish when the dogs were listening to each tone in their own language and when the turks were listening back.
“They were actually able to associate each tone with the corresponding tone in our audio recordings,” Miller noted.
Miller has previously found that human speech is capable of mimicking a dog’s body tone, but only to a certain degree.
“Dogs are very sensitive to the tone and tone of other animals, so we wanted to find out if there were ways to mimic this to a larger degree,” Miller, a native of Michigan, said in the news release about the study’s findings.
“Our experiments revealed that, even though we do not know if humans can imitate the dog’s voice, we are able in our own voices to mimic the dog and to learn to mimic their voice,” Miller added.
The results of the study were published online by Current Biology.
Miller added that the results could have implications for human-animal