Health Editor’s Note: Yes, I am relieved that house cats do not roar. If they were able to roar, the sound would be deafening around here…..Carol
Secrets of a Lion’s Roar
by Sarah Zielinski/Smithsonian.com
Not all cats roar (which is probably a good thing for those of us who own housecats), but those that do fascinate us with their mysterious and frightening sounds. Research published this week in PLoS ONE gives us new insight into the inner workings of the roars of lions and tigers—the secret is in the cats’ vocal folds.
A group of biologists and speech scientists studied how lions and tigers roar by examining and testing tissue from the larynges of three lions and three tigers from the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha that had been euthanized because they were old and sick. The researchers were particularly interested in the vocal fold tissues, soft connective tissues made of collagen, elastin, a lubricant and fat.
Vocal folds are just another name for vocal cords, and they are a bit different in lions and tigers than in other species. In most species, the vocal folds are shaped like triangles where they protrude into the animal’s airway. But in lions and tigers, the protrusions are flat and shaped like a square, courtesy of the fat deep within the vocal fold ligament.