Animal Languages 23 Animal Languages No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor but honest. Bertrand Russell Is language the exclusive property of the human species The idea of talking animals is as old and as widespread among human societies as language itself. All cultures have legends in which some animal plays a speaking role, All over West Africa, children lis ten to folktales in whicti a spider man is the hero. Coyote is a favorite figure in many Native American tales, and many an animal takes the stage in Aesop's famous fa bles. The fictional Doctor Doolittle's forte was communicating with all manner of ani mals, from giant snails to tiny sparrows. If Janguage is viewed only as a system of communication, then many species com municate. Hum


Animal Languages 25 Rose Is Rose copyright 2000 United Features Syndicate. Reprinted by permission. Most animals possess some kind of signaling communication system. Among certain species of spiders there is a complex system for courtship. The male spider, before he approaches his ladylove, goes through an elaborate series of gestures to inform her that he is indeed a spider and a suitable mate, and not a crumb or a fly to be eaten. These ges tures are invariant. One never finds a creative spider changing or adding to the courtship ritual of his species. A similar kind of gestural language is found among the fiddler crabs. There are forty species, and each uses its own claw waving movement to signal to another member of its clan. The timing, movement, and posture of the body never change f