photo: Courtney Bolton/Creative Commons
One more piece illustrating that our closest relatives in the animal world are more like us than we've given them credit: A new article in PLoS ONE shows how bonobos like to talk about their food, using different call sequences to tell one another when they find highly-desirable food (kiwis) and less-desirable food (apples). Researchers from the University of St Andrews in Scotland and the Twycross Zoo found that bonobos use specific calls to share their food discoveries within their group. In the experiment, when kiwis were discovered higher pitched long barks and short peeps are used. When apples were found lower pitched "peep-yelps" and peeps are used.
Report author Dr Zanna Clay, quoted by BBC News:
Although we found that the bonobos produce sequences of calls, the way they produce them is unlike syntax in language, or how we structure structure words and sentences together in strings. However, the way that the listening bonobos interpreted these sequences as meaningful shows some similarities with how we listen to language and understand it.
Listen to the different calls bonobos make when communicating about their food: Bonobos Extract Meaning from Call Sequences -- scroll down to Audio S1 and Audio S2.