The boy who cries wolf isn't the only one who loses credibility. Burrowing squirrels known as Richardson's ground squirrels pay less attention to alarms from a neighbor associated with false signals than to calls from a source with a better record, says James F. Hare of University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
A group of these ground squirrels shares a tangle of tunnels, and any squirrel that spots a badger, coyote, or other menace gives a call that Hare describes as sounding a lot like "eek." Hare had accidentally discovered that he could elicit eeks by tossing his hat toward a youngster.
To test whether the ground squirrels heed different alarms more or less, Hare recorded a selection of prompted eeks.
Hare and his colleague Brent A. Atkins then created a reliable alarm by playing eeks from a part