Chimpanzees have an exceptional ability to produce complex vocalizations

Posted in 15/06/2022

Chimpanzees “talking”: they make sounds that are skillfully combined and ordered - Fiona Rogers/stone/Getty Images

Paris, May 18, 2022 (AFP) – Chimpanzees have an exceptional ability to produce complex vocalizations, with nearly 400 different sequences identified by a team of scientists in this ape, the closest to humans. “They don’t speak, of course, if we take human language as a reference,” warns evolutionary biologist Cédric Girard Buttoz, lead author of the study published this Monday (18) in Nature Communications Biology.

But chimpanzees have an unusual ability to combine a reduced range of calls, “twelve single vocalizations” in at least 390 different sequences, according to the researcher. It is a kind of syntax that associates from two to ten screams and whose meaning has yet to be specified.

In fact, the animal may have developed the ability to combine sounds in different ways to mean different things. “We have some ideas about the meaning of certain sequences, one of which is exclusively related to nesting, and has nothing to do with the meaning of isolated cries,” Marc Jeannerod, a researcher at the French Institute of Cognitive Sciences, told AFP.