Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hyrax Song

If you live outside of Israel, this week you will read parshat Shemini in Shul (we Israelis already read it last week while you were celebrating the 8th day of Pesach).

Shemini contains (amongst other things) the list of kosher and non-kosher animals, birds and fish. (If you want to wear a parsha-themed tie, how about a tie with Minnie Mouse. Her last name appears in the list of 8 impure animals (achbar) and her first name is almost the same as the name of the parsha).

Anyhow, one of the four animals which has only one 'kosher sign' (and which has been the subject of much controversy over the past several years since the first publication of Rabbi Slifkin's "The Camel the Hare and the Hyrax. If you have read any of the books, articles, blogs, cherems etc on the subject you will know that whether or not the hyrax actually chews the cud is a matter of great debate.

But what I didn't know until today (when I read this article) is that apparently hyraxes (hyraces?) also sing, and have fairly complex syntax in their songs! (Apparently, according to the article, it is well known locally for its song, but I don't live locally (in Ein Gedi) so I didn't know that)

The rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) is a social mammal, which lives in large groups, and is found in the Middle East and Africa.

The singing creatures are social and live in large groups
It is well known locally for its song, and scientists believe that males use these vocalisations to advertise their wares.

The team who carried out the study recorded singing hyraxes in nine regions around Israel.

Dr Kershenbaum said: "A typical hyrax song can last for several minutes, and their songs are broken down into small bouts, with each bout lasting for maybe 10 to 20 seconds.

"Each bout is composed of a number of notes, which we call the syllables. There are only a very small number of syllables that make up a hyrax song, and each sound is very distinct.

"And out of these, you can make up a whole language and combine them in an infinite number of ways."

Which I thought was interesting!

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