Dr. Takeshi Nishimura from the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University and his team of researchers have stumbled upon a group of singing apes that use the same vocal techniques as professional human soprano singers! The apes in question are white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar) at Fukuchiyama City Zoo.
Nishimura says that a gibbon’s song is acoustically unique and very different from other primates. Their vocals consist of a loud melody that can be heard over two miles away. When in the wild, these apes use their songs to converse with neighboring pairs, strangers and potential mates. They are basically surrounded by thick jungle where visibility is poor. With their research the team has shown how the gibbons’ distinctive song uses the same vocal mechanics as soprano singers.
The team used helium gas in their research as it is useful for studying animal vocal mechanisms. It has the ability to increase sound velocity and resonance frequencies. The team recorded 20 gibbon calls in normal air atmosphere and then proceeded to record 37 calls in a helium-enriched atmosphere. Their findings drew to attention how gibbons are able to consciously manipulate their vocal cords and tract to make their characteristic sound. This study also supports the theory that like it is with humans, there is autonomy between the origin of the sound and the vocal tools used to manipulate it.[via TG Daily]