Scientists have finally unraveled why our primate relatives can not talk. In a study, the experts also produced a voice simulation of what monkeys would sound like if they do talk.
A barrel of monkeys having a meeting - are they talking?
A recent viral video of a parrot singing a high note pop tune
stunned and amused the Internet. It's remarkable how such small animal can talk much more belt out a tune in high notes!
But our closer relative, the monkeys can only hoot, coo, and grunt. Why is that? Why is this creature that is closer to us in physique and even mannerisms can be devoid of vocal sophistication?
Although it was still a mystery why other animals can produce a comprehensible speech, experts decided to prove whether Darwin was right in saying that monkeys and apes don't just have the brain to be able to talk or the "textbook explanation" by other experts that the primates' vocal tract itself is causing their lack of sophisticated speech.
I can imagine a bunch of Gollum-sounding singing.
William Tecumseh Sherman Fitch III, an evolutionary biologist who led the study and cognitive scientist at the University of Vienna and co-author Asif Ghazanfar, a neuroscientist at Princeton University suspected that Darwin was right.
They trained the Princeton lab primate, a long-tailed macaque named Emiliano to make various vocalizations like eating, yawning, and lip smacks while they shot an x-ray video of him doing the activities.
They were able to come up with 99 configurations of Emiliano's vocal tract after analyzing the xray video stills. The two scientists discovered that Emiliano is capable of producing the same vowel sounds A, E, I, O, and U, at least in theory by calculating the macaque's "vowel space".
They created a simulation of the macaque's voice by inputting its vocal configuration to a computer. They also selected the phrase that could stimulate wide vocal range which is “Will you marry me?”
The voice result sounded flat, guttural and throaty reminiscent to the Lord of the Rings character Smeagol/Gollum. Listen here
The result suggests that anatomically, monkeys are capable of speech like humans. According to Fitch, the neural control for speech in primates is just lacking.
In the recent study, Gene Responsible For the Evolution of ‘Big Brains’ of Humans Located
may also be able to explain how monkeys evolved to be limited in this faculty.