Research Highlights | Published:

Evolution

Monkey lips smack of speech

Nature volume 486, page 9 (07 June 2012) | Download Citation

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Human speech could have evolved from monkey lip-smacking, an affectionate gesture that monkeys make towards each other.

Image: C. RUOSO/MINDEN PICTURES/FLPA

Asif Ghazanfar at Princeton University in New Jersey, Tecumseh Fitch at the University of Vienna and their colleagues made X-ray movies of macaques during episodes of lip-smacking. The monkeys moved their lips five times per second — the same frequency as occurs in human speech, and much faster than when the monkeys chewed. Moreover, the monkeys' lip movements were independent of their throat movements during lip-smacking, much like human speech.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/486009e

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