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.

February 2019

Big Storms Brewing

Can forests weather more major hurricanes?

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb), a global leader of life science research and clinical diagnostic products, today announced that its QXDx AutoDG ddPCR System, which uses Bio-Rad’s Droplet Digital PCR technology, and the QXDx BCR-ABL %IS Kit are the industry’s first digital PCR products to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. Used together, Bio-Rad’s system and kit can precisely and reproducibly monitor molecular response to treatment in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb) today showcases new automation features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer during the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening 2019 International Conference and Exhibition (SLAS) in Washington, D.C., February 2–6. These capabilities enable the ZE5 to be used for high-throughput flow cytometry in biomarker discovery and phenotypic screening.
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Researchers to benefit from an innovative software-connected pipetting system, bringing improved reproducibility and traceability of experiments to life-science laboratories.
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW) will showcase advanced 3D cell culture technologies and workflow solutions for spheroids, organoids, tissue models, and applications including ADME/toxicology at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) conference, Feb. 2-6 in Washington, D.C.