December 17, 2011
I Wanna Talk Like You (oo)
The role of social structure in animal communication is hotly debated. Non-human primates seem to be born with a range of calls and sounds which is dependent upon their species. But overlying this there seems to be some flexibility - you can tell where a gibbon lives by its accent. New research published in Biomed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology used Campbell's monkeys to look in detail at the nature versus nurture question and showed that non-human primate 'language', like humans, is learnt.
Researchers studied free-living Campbell's monkeys (Cercopithecus campbelli campbelli) from the TaÃ¯ National Park, Ivory Coast. They observed social interactions (time spent grooming) and recorded 'contact calls' made while the females were travelling, foraging or resting. Genetic similarity (family relationships) was determined by microsatellite analysis of DNA isolated from droppings. These monkeys have lived close to the TaÃ¯ Monkey Project Research Station for more than 10 years so their social structure and family groups are well known. Groups consisted of one male, four or six females, along with their offspring.
Reference: Social learning of vocal structure in a nonhuman primate? Alban Lemasson, Karim Ouattara, Eric J Petit and Klaus ZuberbÃ¼hler. BMC Evolutionary Biology (in press)
Image Caption: This is a female Campbell's monkey. Credit: Agathe Laurence
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