Tuesday, January 23, 2024

How Moggies Purr: A New Mechanism

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Wildlife, Nature, Nature of Science, History of Science, Biodiversity

Your moggie appears to purr without continuing neural input according to a new paper in Current Biology.

The journal Science News has a short article about the research by Phie Jacobs. The title is very consistent with science. No sensational claims just what scientists can report based on the evidence of a study.

Jacobs begins with an observation experienced by many cat owners and cat lovers. One of the most delightful sounds to a cat lover is their feline friend’s rumbling noise when they get a little scratch behind the ears. Yet how cats produce their contented purrs has long been a mystery.

A new study may finally have the answer. Domestic cats possess “pads” embedded within their vocal cords, which add an extra layer of fatty tissue that allows them to vibrate at low frequencies, scientists report today in Current Biology. What’s more, the larynx of these animals doesn’t appear to need any input from the brain to produce such purring.

Jacobs includes is a short review of low frequency vocalizations (elephants and others), the dominant hypothesis until this study, what the authors examined closely (larynx pads), some concerns from a researcher who suggests it might be more complex. There is quieting sound of the purr. Because Jacobs's reporting includes the original paper you can also view the larynx work and read parts of  interest. A PDF appears available but I didn't try.

Here is the link to original paper.  Once there set your cookie preferences and the haze will disappear. The scientific paper includes almost all of the reporting but not the criticism or the purring segment. But you can see the larynx in action.

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