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Orang-Utans Have Dialects

Orangutan Family Pic 2 Singapore Zoo Pic courtesy chem7

By Matt Salusbury

Orang-utans develop regional dialects, according to a recent Plos One article, with implications for human language evolution. The ‘Call cultures in orangutans?’ study recorded the calls (‘raspberries’, ‘harmonic uuhs’, ‘throat scrapes’) of populations in Sumatra and Borneo

– whose orang populations diverged genetically at least 165,000 years ago. Orangs, it seems, invent ‘arbitrary calls’ that gain meaning among that group through ‘social learning’. Some calls are common to both islands, while others are ‘population-specific’ – absent from neighbouring populations a short distance away. Such variations are ‘due to vocal learning and not to ecological or genetic factors’.

Pic courtesy: chem7