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Research duo discover first instance of non-human primates whispering to each other

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Posted September 26, 2013
Psychology researchers Rachel Morrison and Diana Reiss of The City University of New York have discovered the first instance of non-human primates whispering to one another. In their paper published in Zoo Biology, the two describe how they recorded vocalizations of captive tamarin monkeys and found that when threatened they sometimes revert to whispering to one another to avoid being overheard.
cotton-top tamarin
A Cotton-top tamarin at Schwerin Zoo. Credit: Harald Hoyer / Wikipedia.
 

Whispering is a common strategy used by people to communicate with one or more people while simultaneously trying to avoid having others hear. Other animals have been found to lower the volume of their communications as well under certain circumstances, but never before has any primate other than humans been found to do so. In this new effort, the discovery was inadvertent.

The two researchers were studying cotton-top tamarins at New York’s Central Park zoo, hoping to learn more about the kinds of calls the monkeys make to one another under different circumstances. Prior research had found that tamarins are capable of vocalizing a wide range of noises. Morrison and Reiss were most interested in what are known as mobbing calls—sounds members of a group make to confuse or intimidate predators.

 

Read more at: Phys.org

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