Bonobos are very similar to chimpanzees as far as their genetic code is concerned because they also share it with humans. Both species are member of the genus Pan. Chimps are ale called Pan troglodytes and bonobos were previously known as pygmy chimpanzees. Bonobos are an endangered species which live in the Congo Basin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because of the unstable political situation in Congo studying these animals is quite difficult. As a consequence compared to the common chimp researchers have conducted far less research about bonobos.
A new study suggests that bonobos use various squeals to call out to one another. Moreover the sounds they use are similar to baby cries. Researcher Zanna Clay from the University of Birmingham who has been studying bonobos has observed that besides the common pants and grunts that are specific to primates these animals produce a peeping sound. More details about the study were published in the journal Peer J.
Non-human primates use only a single signal in order to express an idea. For example a sound could be used as an alarm for a neighboring group and another might be used to warn against possible competitor for a mate or food. Using a single sound in various situations was thought to be something specific only for humans. It is called functional flexibility and it is observed in the case of babies who are around three or four months.
Clay explained that she was surprised to notice how frequently the peeps could be heard and how varied were to contexts in which they were used.
Records of the sounds the animals made revealed that the squeaky noises were the same irrespective of what was going on when the calls were made. According to Clay that since peeps cannot be differentiated researchers should concentrate on the contexts in order to figure out how bonobos communicate.
Simon Townsend from the University of Zurich remarked:
It’s not easy to get access to these animals in the wild … and this is really important data. It goes along with a growing body of evidence that suggests that primates do have quite a bit of control … and goes against the general idea that animals are somehow constrained by their emotional state.”
Image Source: lolayabonobo.org