Sussex academics help The One Show talk to the animals

'One Show' presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff imitates the roar of red deer

When the BBC’s popular teatime programme The One Show went looking for help with a series of wildlife films about animal communication, they called on scientific expertise at the University of Sussex.

The results can be seen on The One Show next week, at 7pm on Thursday 12 November and Friday 13 November on BBC 1, as part of a week-long sequence of special wildlife reports for the programme.

Presenters Miranda Krestovnikoff and Mike Dilger will be competing during the week to see who can most best communicate with different animals (bees, wrens, toads, woodpeckers and deer).The One Show filming at LASI

Bee biologists in the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects will feature on Thursday’s programme, showing how bees share information about where to find the best nectar and pollen, while on Friday, psychologist Dr David Reby’s advice forms the basis of an experiment to attract the attention of red deer males by mimicking their calls through a special instrument.

Presenter and naturalist Mike Dilger and a film crew spent a day at LASI. Mike learnt about how honey bees communicate with each other and how to trace where bees forage.

This process is part of the Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health and Well-being, a five-year research plan to help the British honey bee overcome current challenges including pests, disease and environmental changes, such as climate change and the decline of nectar-rich wildflowers such as clover, heather and meadow flowers.

The LASI team, headed by Professor of Apiculture Francis Ratnieks, is studying the famous bee “waggle dance” as part of Project Two of the Sussex Plan. Successful honey bee foragers make waggle dances when they return to the hive. These dances tell nest mates the direction and distance of profitable flower patches. The dances can also be decoded by researchers, using observation hives and video cameras. Honey bees literally tell the researchers where they have been foraging – the only animals that are able to do so. Decoding dances provides an effective means of investigating honey bee feeding ecology.

Dr Karin Alton, who is a member of the LASI team, says: “'We’re always pleased to act as an interface between science and the public. We hope The One Show team had an enjoyable day.”

Psychologist Dr Reby, who specialises in the origin, structure and function of vocal signals in mammals, was called on to help with the design of an instrument that would mimic the sound of male deer. He gave advice on the construction and dimensions of a pipe that Miranda could blow down to imitate the roar of red deer. A One Show spokesperson said: “It sounded amazing. We put Miranda up a tree in a deer park and the sound she made produced a definite reaction from a nearby stag.”

Dr Reby has conducted research into the ability of red deer males to compete via sound cues that advertise the size and strength of any individual to other males and to females.

Notes for Editors

For more information about LASI and the Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health, visit the LASI web site

For more information about mammal communication research, see Dr David Reby’s profile

Contact the University of Sussex Press office for further information.

Last updated: Tuesday, 10 November 2009