A new study has come to the surprising conclusion that the communication between Bonobos resembles how human infants talk.
Researchers in Europe have found that Bonobos communicate in a manner that is quite similar to that of human infants — something that they haven’t seen before in other primates.
Scientists at the University of Birmingham in England and the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland observed Bonobos in the Congo, noticing that they differed from most species, which seem to communicate only when presented with certain events or states of emotion, like alerting others to a predator or when finding food, according to an NBC News report.
But the Bonobos were different. They often made “peep” calls even in situations that were considered neutral — situations when they were merely traveling or feeding, meaning that it didn’t really matter what emotional state they were in. In fact, what the scientists heard was very similar to what are called “protophones,” or sounds that human infants make before they develop the ability to talk in full sentences.
It’s really the first time that researchers have looked for evidence of protophones in anything other than humans.
What’s the purpose of these “peeps”? It could be a bridge between “fixed” vocalizations and more nuanced speech.
Bonobos, often referred to as pygmy chimpanzees, is an endangered great ape. This species of ape, along with the chimp, make up the genus Pan.
Bonobos look a little different from the common chimpanzee, however, in that they have longer legs, pink lips, and hair on the tail and on its head that lasts through adulthood. They are mostly found in the Congo Basin in Central Africa, and they live in primary and secondary forests. They have been difficult to study due to their small numbers and the fact that they live in remote region that is rife with political instability.