Those gibbons sure can wail

Birds are not the only animals that communicate by singing—gibbons, apes more closely resembling monkeys in size, sing to strengthen social relationships, announce their territory and find a mate. Crested gibbons in the genus Nomascus live in the Asian rain forests of China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and sing for a specific purpose.

“The songs are specifically adapted to travel over long distances through the dense vegetation of the rain forest by concentrating all of the energy into a single frequency, similar to the calls used by rain forest birds,” wrote Jennifer Welsh in a Live Science article. The coloration in gibbons varies by individual, making it difficult for researchers and conservationists to distinguish between species.

But as Sarah Zielinski reported in yesterday’s Surprising Science post, scientists from the German Primate Center in Goettingen examined the songs of seven species of crested gibbons and found that each species had its own distinct dialect.

“The researchers found that the songs of the two northern species, N. nasutus and N. concolor, were significantly different from those of the four southern species, and the songs of the four southern species were all subtly different from one another. And the more closely related two species or populations songs were, the more alike was their mitochondrial DNA.”

The findings, said the researchers, could help to monitor gibbon populations through song, as opposed to visual, recognition. In addition, continued Welsh, “[t]he gradation of song similarity between the northern and southern populations supports the idea that the genus began in the north and migrated toward the south.”

Read more at “Crested Gibbons Sing in Different Dialects.”

Photo Credit: Tim Strater

Author: Katie Kline

Moderator of EcoTone and ESA's communications officer.

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