Science Proves Monkeys Can Sing Like Prima Donnas

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Aug. 24 2012 4:29 PM

Science Proves Monkeys Can Sing Just Like Soprano Prima Donnas

It turns out monkeys can be prima donnas, too!

Japanese researchers have found that the Lar gibbon controls its voice in the same manner as a human soprano singer. The monkeys posses much of the same vocalization equipment we do: vibrating folds as the source of the sound and the vocal tract acting as a filter to shape it. But researchers recently discovered the apes are also able to control the frequencies of their calls even when placed in a helium-rich environment. Vocal pitch rises because the lighter-than-air gas actually changes the speed of sound, but the gibbons were able to use their vocal tools to modulate their helium-hyped calls down to correct natural pitch, a skill thought to be found only in humans—specifically sopranos.

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Researchers have discovered that Lar Gibbony monkeys can control their voices much like a human soprano.

Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

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This upends the belief that controlled source-filter vocalization is a human-only talent. And with apes possessing the same basic vocal skills as an opera diva, someone had better warn Katherine Jenkins that Miss Pickles here is practicing her Tosca. Best. Understudy. Ever!

Video by Paca Thomas.