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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Orangutans are like beatboxers. They can make two sounds at the same time

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Orangutans, when communicating with each other, can make two different sounds at the same time, scientists write in “PNAS Nexus”. This skill is possessed by songbirds as well as beatboxers.

The ability to make different sounds at the same time have singing birds, as well as beatboxers – musicians who use speech organs to imitate the sounds of, for example, percussion instruments. It turns out that orangutans also have this ability. According to the researchers in an article published in “PNAS Nexus”, these animals can make two sounds at the same time.

Sounds made by orangutans

Scientists observed two populations of orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. 3,800 hours of recordings were recorded. ‘Humans use the lips, tongue and jaw to produce voiceless consonants, while activating the vocal folds (chords) in the larynx with exhaled air to articulate the vowels,’ writes Adriano Lameira of the University of Warwick in England, one of the authors of the paper. ‘Orangutans can also make both types of sounds at once,’ he adds. For example, male orangutans in Borneo make “crunching” noises in combination with “grunts” in combat situations. “The fact that two separate populations of orangutans have been observed with the same ability is evidence that we are dealing with a biological phenomenon,” explains the researcher. As Madeleine Hardus, co-author of the study, adds, people rarely make voiced and voiceless sounds at the same time. The exception may be beatboxing. The mere fact that human beings are anatomically capable of beatboxing raises questions about where this ability came from in us.

“We now know that the answer may lie in the evolution of our ancestors,” Hardus concludes. “It’s possible that early human language resembled something that sounded more like a beatbox before evolution organized language into the consonant-vowel structure we know today,” Lameira muses.

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Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii)Shutterstock

Main photo source: Shutterstock



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