Wild gorillas compose happy songs that they hum during meals
New Scientist (24 February 2016)
Gorillas sing and hum when eating, a discovery that could help shed light on how language evolved in early humans.
Singing seems to be a way for gorillas to express contentment with their meal, as well as for the head of the family to communicate to others that it is dinner time.
Food-related calls have been documented in many animals, including chimpanzees and bonobos, but aside from anecdotal reports from zoos, there was no evidence of it in gorillas.
To see if they make these noises in the wild, Eva Luef, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, observed two groups of wild western lowland gorillas in the Republic of the Congo.
Luef identified two different types of sound that the gorillas sometimes made when eating. One of them was humming – a steady low-frequency tone that sounds a bit like a sigh of contentment… (listen to clip here)
The other was singing – a series of short, differently pitched notes that sounds a little like someone humming a random melody… (listen to clip here).
“They don’t sing the same song over and over,” says Luef. “It seems like they are composing their little food songs.”Ali Vella-Irving, who looks after gorillas at Toronto Zoo in Canada, says humming and singing is a frequent part of mealtimes there. “Each gorilla has its own voice: you can really tell who’s singing,” she says. “And if it’s their favourite food, they sing louder.”
Photo Credit: Song of the jungle (Bernd Rohrschneider/FLPA)
Luef EM, Breuer T, Pika S (2016) Food-Associated Calling in Gorillas (Gorilla g. gorilla) in the Wild. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0144197. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144197 (X)