Recognizing gibbons from their regional accents

February 7, 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: Mekong schistosomiasis is more widespread than previously thought

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)

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

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.