1 Tahrcountry Musings: Recognizing Gibbons from their Regional Accents

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Recognizing Gibbons from their Regional Accents

The other day, I read with great fascination, how scientists have been able to recognize the region from where Gibbons come from, from their accents.  I was under the impression that accents were a human trait.

The pioneering research was done by researchers from the German Primate Center, Goettingen.

The Crested gibbons (genus Nomascus) that live in rainforests of China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam communicate with other gibbons by singing. They do this to define territory and find a mate. Couples sing duets to strengthen pair bonding.

The researchers say gibbon song can be used to identify not only which species of Gibbon is singing but the area it is from. They compared the songs and the genetic diversity of 19 populations, covering 6 species of crested gibbons to their location to arrive at their conclusions. Genetic diversity between the species was measured by looking at mutations in the gene coding for mitochondrial cytochrome b.

The researchers say "Each gibbon has its own variable song but, much like people, there is a regional similarity between gibbons within the same location."

Details appear in the latest issue of open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

Van Ngoc Thinh, Chris Hallam, Christian Roos, and Kurt Hammerschmidt. Concordance between vocal and genetic diversity in crested gibbons. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2011; 11: 36 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-11-36

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