Wednesday, February 16

The Southern Siamang Drawl

Crested Gibbons Sing in Different Dialects

Crested gibbons of the genus Nomascus are small apes that live in the dense rainforests of Cambodia, China, Laos and Vietnam. All seven species communicate by singing—they sing to define their territory and find a mate, and male-female pairs sing duets to strengthen their bond, rather like a Bollywood couple.


Have any of these journalists seen a Bollywood movie?

Since I study the origins of communication, language, and not-language, this paper was hard for me to ignore. And the study subjects are gibbons! Gibbons generally are largely ignored for being boring and not-as-smart as great apes. Also, they live in the secluded treetops of Southeast Asian, and are exceedingly rare. Near Extinct kind of rare, in several cases, so its great that they're getting some publicity.

Plus, this is legitimately interesting! Its kind of like that songbird song variation, except more clustering than I've seen in birds and gibbons actually have similar brains as we do, so the research is not as totally ridiculous. Shocking!

Archaeolinguists and population geneticists have tried to connect biological evolution with the evolution of languages, and they haven't exactly failed. There are connections, or at very least correlations, in human, so finding this in gibbons is quite exciting. I hope someone looks into this in other ape species.

Link for the paper, if you so desire.

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