Can animals understand and use language? What actually happened to the dinosaurs and why do cats purr? Three intriguing questions which have topped a list of natural science mysteries which the British public would most like to see answered according to a new study released today.
The survey of 2,000 British adults was commissioned to celebrate the launch of new TV show David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities, which begins tonight at 8pm on Eden HD. Respondents were asked to pick the mysteries of natural history that they’d most like to see resolved and answer questions on the most prevalent animal myths which are widely believed by British adults.
The perennial conundrum of whether animals have a language proved the most popular mystery of natural science, with almost a third (31%) of those polled choosing this question as one of the questions they would most like to see answered. In second place was the answer to the age-old question surrounding our friends from the Mesozoic Era – why did dinosaurs become extinct (29%)? The top three is rounded off by the public’s desire to know why our feline friends purr (22%) – a question which remains unanswered despite the fact that Britain houses 10.3 million domestic cats!
The top ten also highlighted a question concerning one of nature’s most intriguing animals – the zebra: more specifically the reasoning behind the hoofed African mammal’s stripes (19%)? Brits also want a definitive answer to explain how animals navigate (17%) and how dogs can predict epileptic seizures in humans (16%).
The top three unanswered questions of nature according to the British public are:
1. Do animals have language? – 31%
Scientists are still unsure. Animals can certainly communicate in sounds and gestures and trained to follow commands, but in terms of using this language between them there is no final answer. The vervet monkey alarm call in particular has led people to question ‘language’ in animals. It is thought that prairie dogs can in one chirp, distinguish the identity of the predator, its size and its direction of travel.
2. How did dinosaurs die out? – 29%
No one knows conclusively, but it’s suggested that the decline was due to volcanic eruptions affecting the world’s climate, combined with drastic falls in sea level. A huge asteroid struck the seabed near Mexico 65 million years ago which may have finally wiped out dinosaurs.
3. Why do cats purr? – 22%
This is still up for debate. Although it is tempting to state that cats purr because they are happy, research suggests that for a cat purring is a means of communication and a potential source of self-healing
David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities will shine a light on some of nature’s extraordinary evolutionary anomalies and how these curious animals continue to baffle and fascinate. The zebra, giraffe and platypus will all feature in the series.
David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities launches tonight at 8pm from 29th January on Eden.