Primatology: Monkey talk

    Credit: F. MÖLLERS/TAI MONKEY PROJECT

    Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA doi:10.1073/pnas.0908118106 (2009)

    The vocal communication system used by Campbell's monkeys may represent the most complex syntax-like structure yet found among animals.

    Karim Ouattara and Alban Lemasson of the University of Rennes in France and Klaus Zuberbühler of the University of St Andrews, UK, recorded and analysed the calls of males in six groups of free-ranging Campbell's monkeys in the rainforest of Ivory Coast.

    The males have just six basic types of call, but combine these in context-specific sequences to convey different information. Crowned eagles, for example, elicited four different sequences, and leopards three, according to how the male learnt about their presence — by seeing them, hearing them, or learning about them through the hearsay of other monkey species.

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    Primatology: Monkey talk. Nature 462, 828 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/462828a

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