Ann Vole (annvole) wrote,
Ann Vole

degu vocalization researcher contact

Someone researching degu vocalizations has sent me an email in responce to a post I made on a degu enthusiest Yahoo bulletin board. Here I will post that bulleting board post followed by the non-personal portion of my responce email:
I want to research animal vocalizations using computer voice recognition programs. The animals with most potential are diurnal (active in the day) fossorial (lives underground) social (live in groups) mammals. Degus fit that catagory and make plenty of interesting sounds. To pay for the facility to raise all these animals as I study them, selling some is a good idea but I would rather be selling them as pets then other uses. This makes degus to be an ideal species to test with but to maximize the marketability of my degus, I want to get as many unique genes available. Degus have very few color genes so far but I am already trying to breed grey or "blue" ones. To maximize the genetic health, I am out-breeding with normal color pet degus from my area (live in Canada but got the blue degus from a breeder in France). According to the stories I have read, all our pet degus originated from 6 wild degus taken from South America then bred in large numbers for diabetes research. If this is the case, the genetic diversity is poor for even the normal colored ones let alone these new color genes. Because of this, I would like to aquire some wild female degus for out-breeding to get better genetics (note that mitochondrial DNA is passed on from mothers instead of both parents for nuclear DNA). The problem is a law made in the 1920s and reinforced with later agreements to not allow any wildlife exports from any country in South America. I heard informally that there is a legal way to appeal this ban but the details are not easy to find. My question is basically if anyone has any leads to people exporting animals from South America who may know the methods or if you have heard of anyone else getting wild genes animals for south american rodents (like guinea pigs, chinchillas, or even degus). A second question is if anyone knows of degu breeders with colored degus other then the "blue" with black ticking (have seen photos of blue ones without the black tips or "ticking" on my blue degus) that are willing to export to Canada. By the looks of it, the only common gene is the piebald which makes parts of the degu white. The other genes seem very rare still.

My goal was initially just to provide captive rodents of all sorts a way to have a more interesting life while still being controlled in regards to breeding and avoiding fighting. The idea was to biometrically identify individuals by accurately weighing them while travelling through tubes. Computers would then allow select doors to common areas or the individual's sleeping nest based on what other animals may be met in such areas. I always intended to train some of these animals as animal actors for filmmaking so the idea of having commands in the ultrasonic range made of sounds the animal naturally makes was the first thing to train for. Mother gerbils in my care have taught their young tricks I had taught them leading to the idea that mothers could teach their young this computer generated command set if there was a context where it would benefit the mother. It was at this point that I found out that Richardson Ground Squirrels had been studied and confirmed to have a complex verbal language. I also sortly after found out that human brains do sentence construction and three-dimentional thinking in the same part of the brain. Further was that both tree squirrels and ground squirrels have larger-then-normal section of the brain for three dimentional thinking... to either jump from branch to branch or to navigate complex tunnel systems without light. Putting those facts together, I concluded that ground squirrels not only have the right brain design for sentence construction but also a genetic pressure to develop such skills for their warning calls. My long term interest in rodents as pets started with a tree squirrel I removed from a trap in the early winter and let her live in my school bus (with continuous access to outdoors which she never, to my knowledge, used). It continued with attempts to acquire every rodent pet species to see their collective personalities and life-cycle unique aspects. That tree squirrel made so many verbally obvious sounds to convince me she was clearly purposefully conveying information for me to understand. Only degus and one species of vole (Myodes gapperi) came close to that squirrel's wide range of sounds and obvious emotional cues in the voicing of such sounds. The new goal is to have artificial intelligence programs moving freely within a network of computers that are physically located near the interface robotics/biometrics/microphones and follow each active animal to interpret the vocalizations and also to make two way communication with the animal. Opportunities to use verbal commands could include opening these doors when access is allowed, requesting their prefered foods, games and toys, and ultimately to chat systems with translation to and from human languages for study of how non-human brains think. This hardware and software could also be sold with the animals for a new level of pet interactions new to humankind.
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