Scientists Learn How to Speak Monkey

By Gary Cutlack on at

Researchers at Durham University claim to have translated the various calls in use by a species of ape in Thailand, with the gibbons surveyed apparently having 450 regular "words" -- ones they use to communicate dangers and chat about what interesting insects they fancy having for dinner.

The scientists say that the Lar gibbons have a whispered sort-of language based around various the hoo-ing noises they make. Recording equipment was used to eavesdrop on the conversations of these apes and match them with environmental happenings, revealing they make certain sounds when looking for food and even have calls to warn about the approach of specific predators.

There is, it seems, an ape word for leopard, plus the apes were clever enough to be able to differentiate between different types of bird. In short, if you gave one a phone with a voice-to-text feature, it would probably do quite well for itself on Twitter.

And the reason it's taken us so long to work this all out is because they do all their hoo-ing at a really low whisper level. Again, this is on purpose, to avoid being heard by bigger things that might want to eat them. [BMC via Telegraph]

Image credit: Ape from Shutterstock