Friday, 18 October 2013

Monkeys 'take turns in conversation'

Marmoset monkeys take it in turns to "talk" in a pattern very similar to human conversation, according to scientists.

Researchers recorded the sounds of the marmosets as they called to one another from behind a curtain.

Each animal would call, then wait for the other to respond before calling again.

The results suggest an "alternative evolutionary route" for our own conversational turn-taking.


It is something we take for granted in our conversations, but taking it in turns to talk and listen is crucial for us to effectively exchange information through what we say.

Somewhat mysteriously though, we do not see an obvious origin in our closest primate relatives - the chimpanzees.

Chimps are not very vocal and tend to use their repertoire of gestures to communicate, so it is widely accepted that these manual gestures provided the foundations for the co-operation inherent in our own communication.

But Dr Asif Ghazanfar from Princeton University set out to look for evidence of a vocal route for this co-operation, by looking at vocal exchanges in marmosets.

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