Meerkats Not So 'Simples' As They Appear
They are known for their Russian accents on television adverts but now scientists have discovered that meerkats can recognise each other's voices.
Experts at the University of Zurich say the cute mammals may be the only non-primate species to have this ability.
Meerkats, which mainly live in desert areas in Africa, are able to identify individuals by sound alone, similar to humans.
Researchers recorded noises made by the animals and played them back to a group that lived in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa.
When the call of two separate individuals was played back from different areas, the meerkats did not pay much attention.
But when the same meerkat's call was played from two separate areas simultaneously, the mammals became agitated as in reality this would be impossible - proving they are able to recognise a voice.
Meerkats live in clans and are known for their noisy behaviour but these results, published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, may show that vocal recognition is more common in social groups of animals than previously thought.
Dr Simon Townsend, from the University of Zurich, said: "This is the first experimental demonstration of vocal individual recognition, under natural settings, in a species other than primates.
"Our results suggest when confronted with an impossible socio-physical scenario - the presence of the same individual on two different sides - meerkats are more vigilant and more likely to look in the direction of the violation than when the presence of two different individuals is simulated."