A Japanese study has discovered that gibbons are able to master some of the same vocal techniques that sopranos use to make beautiful music.
Nature says gibbons have a distinctive and melodic call that can carry two kilometres through the dense forest. But researchers at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute wanted to determine how easily gibbons could control the sound. They put a white-handed gibbon in a large box containing 50% non-toxic helium gas, a common technique to study animal vocalizations.
The Christian Science Monitor reports the researchers discovered that the animals are able to amplify the higher sounds by adjusting the shape of their mouth, tongue and teeth, the same way trained human singers are able to manipulate their voices to be heard over an orchestra.
Researcher Takeshi Nishimura tells National Geographic,“We’ve shown how the gibbons’ distinctive song uses the same vocal mechanics as soprano singers, revealing a fundamental similarity with humans.”
Scientists had previously thought that the evolution of humans created the physiology to make distinct sounds and pitches. But these new findings suggest that humans vocal ability may not be as unique as we once believed, only in the way we arrange those sounds into language.