Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Social learning of vocal structure in a nonhuman primate?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: Non-human primate communication is thought to be fundamentally different from human speech, mainly due to vast differences in vocal control. The lack of these abilities in non-human primates is especially striking if compared to some marine mammals and bird species, which has generated somewhat of an evolutionary conundrum. What are the biological roots and underlying evolutionary pressures of the human ability to voluntarily control sound production and learn the vocal utterances of others? One hypothesis is that this capacity has evolved gradually in humans from an ancestral stage that resembled the vocal behavior of modern primates. Support for this has come from studies that have documented limited vocal flexibility and convergence in different primate species, typically in calls used during social interactions. The mechanisms underlying these patterns, however, are currently unknown. Specifically, it has been difficult to rule out explanations based on genetic relatedness, suggesting that such vocal flexibility may not be the result of social learning.

Results: To address this point, we compared the degree of acoustic similarity of contact calls in free-ranging Campbell's monkeys as a function of their social bonds and genetic relatedness. We calculated three different indices to compare the similarities between the calls' frequency contours, the duration of grooming interactions and the microsatellite-based genetic relatedness between partners. We found a significantly positive relation between bond strength and acoustic similarity that was independent of genetic relatedness.

Conclusion: Genetic factors determine the general species-specific call repertoire of a primate species, while social factors can influence the fine structure of some the call types. The finding is in line with the more general hypothesis that human speech has evolved gradually from earlier primate-like vocal communication.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number362
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2011

    Research areas

  • Monkeys, Captive group, Vocalizations, Calls, Chimpanzees, Attention, Produce, Cercopithecus-campbelli

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Social learning of arbitrary food preferences in bonobos

    Shorland, G., Genty, E., Guéry, J-P. & Zuberbuhler, K., 22 Jul 2019, In : Behavioural Processes. 167, 103912.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. The development of communication in alarm contexts in wild chimpanzees

    Dezecache, G., Crockford, C. & Zuberbuhler, K., Aug 2019, In : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 73, 9 p., 104.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Elevated sensitivity to tactile stimuli in stereotypic horses

    Briefer Freymond, S., Bardou, D., Beuret, S., Zuberbuhler, K., Bachmann, I. & Briefer, E. F., 31 May 2019, In : Frontiers in Veterinary Science . 6, 4 p., 162.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Intra-community infanticide in wild, eastern chimpanzees: a 24 year review

    Lowe, A. E., Hobaiter, C., Asiimwe, C., Zuberbuhler, K. & Newton-Fisher, N. E., 27 May 2019, In : Primates. First Online, 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Males with a mother living in their group have higher paternity success in bonobos but not chimpanzees

    Surbeck, M., Boesch, C., Crockford, C., Emery Thompson, M., Furuichi, T., Fruth, B., Hohmann, G., Ishizuka, S., Machanda, Z., Muller, M. M., Pusey, A., Sakamaki, T., Tokuyama, N., Walker, K., Wragham, R., Wroblewski, E., Zuberbuhler, K., Vigilant, L. & Langergraber, K., 20 May 2019, In : Current Biology. 29, 10, p. R354-R355

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. BMC Evolutionary Biology (Journal)

    David Ellard Keith Ferrier (Editor)
    2017 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  2. BMC Evolutionary Biology (Journal)

    David Ellard Keith Ferrier (Editor)
    Oct 2016 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  3. BMC Evolutionary Biology (Journal)

    David Ellard Keith Ferrier (Editor)
    2011 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  4. BMC Evolutionary Biology (Journal)

    David Ellard Keith Ferrier (Editor)
    2009 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

Related by journal

  1. The evolution of ependymin-related proteins

    McDougall, C., Hammond, M., Dailey, S. C., Somorjai, I. M. L., Cummins, S. & Degnan, B., 4 Dec 2018, In : BMC Evolutionary Biology. 18, 13 p., 182.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Two more Posterior Hox genes and Hox cluster dispersal in echinoderms

    Szabó, R. & Ferrier, D. E. K., 27 Dec 2018, In : BMC Evolutionary Biology. 18, 13 p., 203.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. The evolution of social learning mechanisms and cultural phenomena in group foragers

    van der Post, D. J., Franz, M. & Laland, K. N., 10 Feb 2017, In : BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17, 15 p., 49.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Skill learning and the evolution of social learning mechanisms

    van der Post, D. J., Franz, M. & Laland, K. N., 24 Aug 2016, In : BMC Evolutionary Biology. 16, 19 p., 166.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. TCF/Lef regulates the Gsx ParaHox gene in central nervous system development in chordates

    Garstang, M. G., Osborne, P. & Ferrier, D. E. K., 3 Mar 2016, In : BMC Evolutionary Biology. 16, 19 p., 57.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 16989123