Navigation Links
Primate of the opera: What soprano singing apes on helium reveal about the human voice

AUDIO: This is a gibbon call without helium.

Click here for more information.

Have you ever heard an opera singing ape? Researchers in Japan have discovered that singing gibbons use the same vocal techniques as professional soprano singers. The study, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, explains how recording gibbons singing under the influence of helium gas reveals a physiological similarity to human voices.

The research was led by Dr Takeshi Nishimura from the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University, Japan. His team studied the singing of a white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar) at Fukuchiyama City Zoo, in northern Kyoto.

A gibbon's song is acoustically unique among primates, with a loud melody which can be heard over two miles away. In the wild gibbons use their songs to communicate with neighboring pairs, strangers and potential mates through impenetrable jungle where visibility is poor.

"The complexity of human speech is unique among primates as it requires varied soft sounds made by the rapid movements of vocal tracts," said Dr Nishimura. "Our speech was thought to have evolved through specific modifications in our vocal anatomy. However, we've shown how the gibbons' distinctive song uses the same vocal mechanics as soprano singers, revealing a fundamental similarity with humans."

To explore these similarities the team conducted the first acoustic investigation on non-human primates using helium gas. The gas is famous for making human voices appear high pitched by shifting the resonance frequencies of the vocal tract upwards. The gas is useful for studying animal vocal mechanisms as it increases sound velocity and resonance frequencies.

AUDIO: This is a gibbon call with helium.

Click here for more information.

The team recorded 20 gibbon calls in normal air atmosphere, before recording 37 calls in a helium-enriched atmosphere. The resulting sounds, which are available as audio files, reveal how gibbons can consciously manipulate their vocal cords and tract to make their distinctive sound.

"The lowest frequency of harmonics is amplified in a gibbon's song when performed in normal air," said Nishimura. "However, in a helium-enriched atmosphere the tuning of the vocal cord vibration and the resonance of the vocal tract are altered as the gas causes an upward shift of the resonance frequencies."

This supports the theory that, as with humans, there is independence between the origin of the sound and the vocal tools used to manipulate it.

This shows that gibbons use the same process for producing speech as humans, whereby acoustic sound originates from the larynx and is controlled by a filter, determined by the shape of the supralaryngeal vocal tract. This manipulation forms speech and is known as the 'source-filter' process of speech production.

Singing gibbons always, and with minimal effort, adopt the complex vocal techniques which are only mastered in humans by professional soprano singers. This discovery suggests the development of complex vocal abilities in humans was not due to unique evolutionary modifications. Instead it shows that humans share the biological fundamentals of vocalisation with other primates, but in speech have simply acquired another of its most sophisticated forms.

"This is the first evidence that gibbons always sing using soprano techniques, a difficult vocalisation ability for humans which is only mastered by professional opera singers," concluded Nishimura. "This gives us a new appreciation of the evolution of speech in gibbons while revealing that the physiological foundation in human speech is not so unique."

Contact: Ben Norman

Related biology news :

1. The old primates club: Even male monkeys ride their fathers coattails to success
2. Transgenic technique to eliminate a specific neural circuit of the brain in primates
3. Out of the mouths of primates, facial mechanics of human speech may have evolved
4. Manipulation of a specific neural circuit buried in complicated brain networks in primates
5. Good news for nanomedicine: Quantum dots appear safe in pioneering study on primates
6. Ancient fossils reveal how the mollusc got its teeth
7. Research reveals unique solution to gene regulation
8. Study reveals impact of historical domestic cattle hybridization with American bison
9. The genetic cause of a severe skeletal disease in Brazilian Terrier puppies revealed
10. Mystery of elephant infrasounds revealed
11. Engineering technology reveals eating habits of giant dinosaurs
Post Your Comments:
(Date:4/3/2017)... WASHINGTON , April 3, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ... single-cell precision engineering platform, detected a statistically ... cell product prior to treatment and objective ... highlight the potential to predict whether cancer ... prior to treatment, as well as to ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... 2017 The research team of The Hong ... fingerprint identification by adopting ground breaking 3D fingerprint minutiae recovery and ... speed and accuracy for use in identification, crime investigation, immigration control, ... ... A research team led ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... , March 29, 2017  higi, the health IT ... North America , today announced a ... the acquisition of EveryMove. The new investment and acquisition ... of tools to transform population health activities through the ... data. higi collects and secures data today ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... 12, 2017 , ... They call it the “hairy ball.” ... depiction of a system of linkages and connections so complex and dense that ... computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and director of the university’s bioinformatics ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... ... AMRI, a global contract research, development and manufacturing organization ... quality of life, will now be offering its impurity solutions as a stand-alone ... for all new drug products, including the finalization of ICH M7 earlier this ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 , ... ComplianceOnline’s Medical ... place on 7th and 8th June 2018 in San Francisco, CA. The Summit brings ... well as several distinguished CEOs, board directors and government officials from around the world ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... , ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... the implantation and pregnancy rates in frozen and fresh in vitro fertilization ... progesterone and maternal age to IVF success. , After comparing the results from ...
Breaking Biology Technology: