music; ambience churring
[Churring video recorded by WSU researcher Lynne Nelson]
JW: “It’s very distinct. And you can’t mistake it, but to me it sounds like a locomotive going down the tracks, but other people have other descriptions. And it’s kind of like a chugging, but it’s a purring.”
HJ: “So, they call it a churring.”
What’s brown and furry and ‘churs’ when it’s happy? Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Heiko Jansen is a researcher at Washington State University. He and PhD student Jasmine Ware recorded these churring sounds as their animal subject nuzzled a toy teddy bear.
JW: “We work with the North American grizzly bear, also known as the brown bear. One of the most interesting sounds, and something I’d never heard, is the happy sound that a cub makes. It’s very loud, you can hear it. And, usually, they may not necessarily need to be suckling to do that, but they’re content. And that’s pretty much the only really happy sound a bear will ever make.”
HJ: “And even adult bears will make those sounds. They’re just going to be a lot lower.”
JW: “But it’s more rare in the adult bears. The cubs will do this daily. Whenever they’re suckling and they’re happy with mom and everything’s good, that’s a sound that you’ll hear.”
Some of the bears at the research facility were raised by humans and trained with pacifiers. Now that they’re adults, the pacifier still elicits these comforting sounds.
HJ: “When they go into the dens with the hibernating bears to do what’s called an echocardiogram, sometimes they’ll give them the pacifiers, and you’ll hear this chugging, churring sound in the adult bears. And they’re just very content.”
Scientists at Washington State University are studying the grizzly bears hibernation in the hope that it may provide clues to prevent human medical problems such as osteoporosis and sleep disorders.
Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation