Menu

Orangutan Imitates Human Speech

Captive ape produces more than 500 vowel-like sounds, offering clues to how speech evolved in humans.

Jul 27, 2016
Tanya Lewis

WIKIMEDIA, ZYANCEAn orangutan named Rocky impressed scientists at Durham University, in the U.K., by mimicking more than 500 vowel-like sounds in human speech, the researchers reported today (July 27) in Scientific Reports. It’s the first time a nonhuman primate has demonstrated this level of vocal fold control, hinting out how humans evolved speech after they split off from great apes.

The long-held notion that great apes lack this ability can now be thrown “into the trash can,” study coauthor Adriano Lameira of Durham University told BBC News.

Lameira and colleagues trained Rocky to produce vowel sounds that mimicked the pitch and tone of human speech. The researchers compared Rocky’s vocalizations with a database of thousands of hours’ worth of calls of wild and captive orangutans, finding that Rocky was able to control his voice in novel ways and learn new sounds.

“Notably, the orangutan subject skillfully produced ‘wookies’—an idiosyncratic vocalization exhibiting a unique spectral profile among the orangutan vocal repertoire,” the researchers wrote in their paper. The findings could help explain how humans evolved the sophisticated control of their voices that allowed them to develop speech, the team added.

Lameira and colleagues previously described a female orangutan named Tilda in a German zoo that was able produce sounds with the same rhythm and pace as human speech, New Scientist reported.

September 2018

The Muscle Issue

The dynamic tissue reveals its secrets

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress, a Folsom, California based leading supplier of human biospecimens, announces the release of frozen Peripheral Blood Leukopaks. Leukopaks provide an enriched source of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with low granulocyte and red blood cells that can be used in a variety of downstream cell-based applications.

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

Vector Laboratories, a leader in the development and manufacture of labeling and detection reagents for biomedical research, introduces VECTASHIELD® Vibrance™ – antifade mounting media that delivers significant improvements to the immunofluorescence workflow.

Enabling Genomics-Guided Precision Medicine

Enabling Genomics-Guided Precision Medicine

Download this eBook from Qiagen to learn more about the promise of precision medicine and how QCITM Interpret can help deliver better care with better knowledge.

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Download this white paper from Bertin Technologies to learn how to extract and analyze lipid samples from various models!