Scientists have uncovered something unique about the Congo’s bonobos and their baby talk. It seems that their calls were not named that for nothing, as the distinct way in which they are talking through little noises closely resembles the way our human babies do.
If you ever thought babies had a language of their own, or if you really liked the Look Who’s Talking movie series, it seems that we may’ve actually been right all along. Babies do have a unique way of talking, and it’s a bit more complicated than you would think. It’s called functional flexibility and the newest research shows that it’s not so unique to humans.
Functional flexibility is the technique of using the almost exact same sound to express a wide range of feelings. You may have thought that babies understand each other by magic. Think again! It’s all science. Apparently those who develop functional flexibility can easily understand their emotions.
Now back to the monkeys.
Bonobos are a species of endangered primates who have their natural habitat in Central Africa, specifically, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country is divided by the river Congo. The bonobos, who are the brother-species of the common chimpanzees, live south of the river, whilst their relatives inhabit the norther part.
Along with chimps, these monkeys are the closest relatives to modern humans. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that bonobos also have functional flexibility, like our own babies.
The study that found this was led by Zanna Clay, a researcher at the School of Psychology of the Birmingham University. They decided to approach this matter because of the innate intelligence that bonobos have proven themselves capable of, as some have been shown to understand English, or be able to use an iPad. Pretty cool, no?
The 39 apes involved in the study were observed by Clay’s team in the DRC, and were found to use interesting ‘peep’ sounds for distinct situations that they encountered. The most important conclusion was that these peeps varied greatly when they were used to convey negative meanings. So the sounds were pretty much the same when the monkeys ate, traveled, or were at rest. Still, when they saw predators, the bonobos altered the tone of the sound, still keeping the sound itself.
The researchers hope that through this study, we will understand more not only about monkeys, but even about our own children. It seems that the more we learn about apes, the more we uncover further mysteries to be investigated.
Image source: thedailybeast.com