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Department of Zoology



2017-present College Lecturer, College Tutor, and Director of Studies, Girton College, University of Cambridge

2014-2017 Herchel Smith Research Fellow in Zoology, University of Cambridge

2012-2014 Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, Knoxville, TN, USA 

2008-2012 PhD in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, University of Haifa, Israel
Advisors: Leon Blaustein (Univ. of Haifa), Lewi Stone (Tel Aviv Univ.)

1984-1991 BA (Hons), MA. University of Cambridge, Natural Sciences


  • Animal vocal communication and evolution of language
  • Passive acoustic monitoring of large carnivores
  • Xenolinguistics and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
  • Evolutionary ecology and cooperation
  • Bioacoustics
  • Behavioural ecology
  • Mathematical ecology
Main study species:
Wolves & other canids
Dolphins & cetaceans Aliens...

I study the vocal behaviour of wolves in Spain, Italy, and the United States. I am particularly interested in the use of different vocalisations in different behavioural contexts, like territorial interactions, and cohesion calls between distant individuals. This information can help us design conservation and management strategies that prevent conflict between wildlife and humans.

Understanding dolphin communication is particularly difficult because they are hard to follow in the wild, and their behaviour in captivity is highly restricted. In Eilat, Israel, I study a pod of free-ranging dolphins that are habituated to human presence, and so give us the opportunity to examine the link between vocal and social behaviour. The way that dolphins encode information into sound is more complex and more unusual than we previously thought. Are there any features of communication that are so universal that we would expect to find them even on other planets? Can we look at the way animals on Earth communicate and understand something of the constraints operating also on alien species? I've written a popular science book on the subject, The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy, published by Viking-Penguin
Other study species
Hyraxes Birds


Key publications: 

Kershenbaum A., Blumstein D.T, Roch M.A., et al. (2014) Acoustic sequences in non-human animals: A tutorial review and prospectus. Biological Reviews 

Kershenbaum A., Bowles A.E., Freeberg T.M., Jin D.Z., Lameira A.R., Bohn K. (2014) Animal vocal sequences: not the Markov chains we thought they were. Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Kershenbaum A., Sayigh L., Janik V. (2013) The encoding of individual identity in dolphin signature whistles: how much information is needed? PLoS One 8(10): e77671

Kershenbaum A., Ilany A., Blaustein L., Geffen .E. (2012) Syntactic structure and geographical dialects in the songs of male rock hyraxes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 279:2974-2981

 Kershenbaum A., Spencer M., Blaustein L., Cohen J.E. (2012) Modelling evolutionarily stable strategies in oviposition site selection, with varying risks of predation and intraspecific competition. Evolutionary Ecology 26(4):955-974 


Other publications: 

More peer-reviewed journals

Demartsev V, Kershenbaum A, Ilany A, Barocas A, Weissman Y, Koren L, Geffen E (in press) Lifetime changes in vocal syntactic complexity of rock hyrax males are determined by social class. Animal Behaviour

Kershenbaum A., Owens J.L., Waller S. (2019) Tracking cryptic animals using acoustic multilateration: a system for long-range wolf detection. Journal of the Acoustical Society ofAmerica 145:1619

Walton B., Kershenbaum A. (2018) Heterospecific recognition of referential alarm calls in two species of lemur. Bioacoustics

Kershenbaum A., Blumstein D.T. (2017) Introduction to the special column: Communication, cooperation, and cognition in predators. Current Zoology 63:295-299

Demartsev V., Ilany A., Kershenbaum A., Geva Y., Margalit O., Schnitzer I., Barocas A., Bar-Ziv E., Koren L., Geffen E. (2017) The progression pattern of male hyrax songs and the role of climactic ending. Scientific Reports 7:2794

Owens J.L., Olsen M., Fontaine A., Kloth C., Kershenbaum A., Waller S. (2017) Visual classification of feral cat Felis silvestris catus vocalizations. Current Zoology 63:331-339

Kershenbaum A., Déaux É.C., Habib B., Mitchell B., Palacios V., Root-Gutteridge H., Waller S. (2017) Measuring acoustic complexity in continuously varying signals: how complex is a wolf howl? Bioacoustics

Kershenbaum A., Root-Gutteridge H., Habib B., Koler-Matznick J., Mitchell B., Palacios V., Waller S. (2016) Disentangling canid howls across multiple species and subspecies: structure in a complex communication channel. Behavioural Processes

Kershenbaum A., Garland E. (2015) Quantifying animal sequence similarity: which metric performs best? Methods in Ecology and Evolution 6:1452-1461

Kershenbaum A., Freeberg T.M., Gammon D.E. (2015) Estimating vocal repertoire size is like collecting coupons: A theoretical framework with heterogeneity in signal abundance. Journal of Theoretical Biology 373:1-11

Kershenbaum A. (2014) Entropy rate as a measure of animal vocal complexity. Bioacoustics 23:195-208

Demartsev V., Kershenbaum A., Ilany A., Barocas A., Bar Ziv E., Koren L., Geffen E. (2014) Male hyraxes increase song duration and syntax complexity in the presence of an audience. Behavioral Ecology 25:1451-1458

Kershenbaum A., Blank L., Sinai I., Merilä J., Blaustein L., Templeton A. (2014) Genetic indications of landscape dispersal behaviour: a theoretical model and empirical test using the fire salamander. Oecologia 175:509-520

Kershenbaum A., Roch M. (2013) An image processing based paradigm for the extraction of tonal sounds in cetacean communications. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 134(6):4435-4445

Lameira A.R., de Vries H., Hardus M.E., Hall C.P.A, Mitra Setia T., Spruijt B.M., Kershenbaum A., Sterck E.H.M., van Noordwijk M., van Schaik C., Wich S.A. (2013) Predator guild does not influence orangutan alarm call rates and combinations. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67:519-528

Kershenbaum A., Stone L., Ostfeld R., Blaustein L. (2012) Modelling transmission of vector-borne pathogens shows complex dynamics when vector feeding sites are limited. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36730. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036730 

Edlund S., Davis M., Douglas J.V., Kershenbaum A., Waraporn N., Lessler J., Kaufman J.H. (2012) A global model of malaria climate sensitivity: comparing malaria response to historic climate data based on simulation and officially reported malaria incidence. Malaria Journal 11(1):331

Kershenbaum A., Kershenbaum A., Blaustein L. (2011) Rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) den site selection: preference for artificial sites. Wildlife Research 38:244-248 

Kershenbaum A., Stone L., Kotler B.P., Blaustein L. (2010) Predation risk can drive cycles in zoonotic disease prevalence. Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution 56:281-295 

Segev O, Mangel M, Wolf N, Sadeh A, Kershenbaum A, Blaustein L. (2011) Spatio-temporal reproductive strategies in the fire salamander: a model and empirical test. Behavioral Ecology 22:670-678 

Kershenbaum A., Kershenbaum A., Tarabeia J., Stein N., Lavi I., Rennert G. (2011) Unraveling seasonality in population averages: An examination of seasonal variation in glucose levels in diabetes patients using a large population-based dataset. Chronobiology International 28(4):352-360


Popular science

The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy, Viking-Penguin, 2020



What Your Dog Can Teach You About Aliens | Arik Kershenbaum | TEDxCambridgeUniversity



BBC Radio Cambridgeshire February 2016 Wolf howling
BBC Radio 4 April 2012 The PM Program - hyrax syntax
BBC Radio 5 August 2014 Animal vocal sequences


Image result for wbir

 NIMBioS videos

Science Minute: Animal vocal sequences
NIMBioS seminar: Analyzing sequences in animal vocal communication
Video interview: Talking to the animals

Popular and newspaper

IFL Science February 2016 Wolves Have Different "Dialects" Depending OnTheir Species
Huffpost Science February 2016 Canines Communicate With Their Own'Howling Dialects,' Study Finds
Nature 484, 418 (26 April 2012) Mammal sings with syntax
Science 18 May 2012: Vol. 336 no. 6083 p. 778 Different dialects
BBC Science & Environment April 2012 The rock hyrax surprises with syntax skills
The New York Times Science April 2012 Looks Like a Rodent, Croons Like a Bird
The Washington Post August 2014 Do any animals have a true ‘language’?
Science on NBC News April 2012 Wail, chuck, snort: Hyraxes sing complex songs
Wired April 2012 Small Furry Hyrax Sings in Regional Dialects
The National (Abu Dhabi) September 15 2012 Rock stars who sing of their love
Africa Geographic December 2012 Rock stars
BBC Nature, August 2011 Hyraxes: why Israel's 'rock rabbits' have become pests