Recognizing gibbons from their regional accents

Feb 07, 2011

Crested gibbons (genus Nomascus) live in dense Asian rainforest, specifically in China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and, because of their environment, they communicate with other gibbons by singing. Both males and females sing in order to define territory and find a mate, and couples also sing duets to strengthen their pair bonding. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology describes how gibbon song can be used to identify not only which species of Gibbon is singing but the area it is from.

Researchers from the German Primate Center, Goettingen, compared the songs and the genetic diversity of 19 populations, covering 6 species of crested gibbons, to their location. Gibbon songs are adapted to transmission in a forest so the transmission energy is concentrated in a single frequency band, with slow modulations, on an optimised song syllable. Consequently, in order to identify species, over 400 song samples were analysed using 53 acoustic parameters. between the species was measured by looking at mutations in the for mitochondrial cytochrome b.

The four most related songs came from the gibbon species with the most closely related DNA and geographical location, from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam with the gibbons from the southern most areas being more closely related to each other than to the more northerly Vietnamese gibbons and gibbons from China supporting the suggested migration direction from the North to the South.

Van Ngoc Thinh says that "Each gibbon has its own variable song but, much like people, there is a regional similarity between gibbons within the same location".

Explore further: Rock-paper-scissors model helps researchers demonstrate benefits of high mutation rates

More information: Concordance between vocal and genetic diversity in crested gibbons, Van Ngoc Thinh, Chris Hallam, Christian Roos, and Kurt Hammerschmidt, BMC Evolutionary Biology (in press)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

When climate is iffy, birds sing a more elaborate tune

May 21, 2009

Why is it that some birds sing such elaborate songs and others not so much? A new study published online on May 21st in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, says that climate patterns might be part of the answer.

Recommended for you

Does germ plasm accelerate evolution?

Apr 14, 2014

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have published research in the leading academic journal Science that challenges a long held belief about the way certain species of vertebrates evolved.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...