Chimpanzees Can Learn New "Words" from New Companions
A study of various chimps housed together in Edinburgh reveals that the apes alter their grunts to better communicate with new neighbors.
As Jonathan Webb writes in this BBC News story, scientists seeking to learn more about human communication will sometimes focus their studies on our close biological relatives. In the case of a recent two-year study in Edinburgh, researchers examined chimpanzees and their relative abilities to adopt new words (or rather, grunts) from new companions. To do this, the scientists introduced a new group of chimps from the Netherlands into a small community based in Edinburgh:
"The Edinburgh chimps were not especially partial to apples and used a low-pitched grunt to refer to them; the Dutch newcomers, on the other hand, 'really loved apples and gave much higher-pitched calls.'
By 2013 however, the groups were getting on famously. There were firm Scottish-Dutch friendships and the chimps had essentially formed one big group of 18.
Along with that social bonding, there had been a remarkable shift in one key aspect of their communication: 'The Dutch chimps had actually adopted the Edinburgh call for apples.'
What is more, this had happened without any shift in preferences. The Dutch animals were still much more partial to apples than their Edinburgh-raised companions."
Webb writes that this is the first time scientists have witnessed such flexibility in an established primate referential call. The researchers are still contemplating the exact meaning of this discovery. Did the Dutch chimps adopt the Scottish "accent" to better fit in? Were they subconsciously picking up new grunts?
Either way, says Webb, the scientists were very impressed by the chimps' capacity for this advanced level of vocal learning. This new knowledge could serve as a springboard toward further studies on the nature of primate social networks and, by proxy, how humans communicate as well. For now, we'll just content ourselves with the fun image of chimps with Scottish accents.
Read more at BBC News.
Photo credit: Vladimir Wrangel / Shutterstock
It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.
- Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
- These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
- The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.
- Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
- Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
- Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.
- Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
- Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
- Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.