Friday, October 14, 2005

Chimps talk to each other while eating

Chimpanzees may not talk like humans, but they understand the language of lunch.

Researchers have found that chimps make different calls when given different kinds of food.

High grunts denote a highly prized treat, such as bread, and low grunts food of low value, like apples.

Other chimps seem to know exactly what the calls mean.

When scientists played recordings of the noises to a chimpanzee at Edinburgh Zoo, he searched in the appropriate places for the food in question.

Researcher Katie Slocombe, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, said: “This is the first demonstration that chimpanzee calls function to refer to the nature of discovered food and these calls are meaningful to fellow animals.

“It shows that, by simply listening to each other’s calls, chimpanzees can infer what kind of food the caller has found.

“Our focal animal adjusted his foraging behaviour on the basis of the calls he heard.”

The scientists are planning further studies to test how specific the calls are - whether they refer to “bread” and “apples”, or merely high and low value foods.

Story here.

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