Scientists have discovered that chimpanzees have developed different ways of screaming during fighting. The findings, led by psychologists at the University of St Andrews, suggest that the subtle differences in vocalisations may have been developed to provide important clues for nearby allies.
The research team, led by PhD student Katie Slocombe, found that chimpanzees screamed differently depending on whether they are the aggressor or the victim. The results of a two-year study suggest that these calls inform nearby allies and relatives about the identity and social role of the group members involved in a fight. Nearby recipients may use this information to decide whether or not it is necessary to intervene in an ongoing fight.
The findings will be revealed at a special National Science Week exhibition launched at Edinburgh Zoo this weekend (Sunday 13th March 2005).
The researchers said: “Our study into the complexity of chimpanzee vocalisation both in the wild and at the Zoo found that chimpanzees that are the victim of an attack produce screams that are acoustically different from the attacking chimpanzee.
“The acoustic differences were consistent across all fourteen individuals observed, suggesting that chimps produce reliable information about their current social role during a fight. In their native rainforest habitat this may provide important clues for nearby friends, allies, or relatives, particularly as to whether or not they should approach and intervene in an ongoing fight.”
The Zoo exhibit is aimed at all ages and will include an interactive computerised activity in which visitors can explore different call types produced by chimpanzees. Videos, photos, sounds and text will bring the topic to life and illustrate when and why chimps produce different calls. Visitors will then have the chance to test their knowledge with a fun interactive quiz. A team of active primate researchers, including Katie herself, will be on hand at the launch this weekend to answer any questions.
Along with fellow primate expert Dr Klaus Zuberbühler, a lecturer and psychologist at St Andrews, Katie has been at the forefront of this most recent research into chimp vocalisations. As well as spending a substantial amount of time in the Zoo studying their chimp family, she also spent eight months in the Budongo Forest (Uganda) studying a group of wild chimpanzees.
The University of St Andrews is one of four Scottish universities, which recently launched an innovative partnership with Edinburgh Zoo. The ‘Living Links to Human Evolution’ Centre will allow a group of primatologists from the Universities of St Andrews, Stirling, Edinburgh and Abertay, already internationally renowned for their studies of wild monkeys and apes, to focus on more detailed aspects of behaviour closer to home.
The results of Katie’s recent research are published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology (Volume 119, Issue 1).
NOTE TO EDITORS:
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE RESEARCH, KATIE SLOCOMBE IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON 01334 467279 OR EMAIL kes11@st- andrews.ac.uk
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE ZOO EXHIBIT, SEE CONTACT DETAILS BELOW.
NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS:
THERE WILL BE A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY AT THE CHIMPANZEE ENCLOSURE OF EDINBURGH ZOO ON SUNDAY 13 MARCH AT 11AM.
For further info contact: Kate Turnbull, Press + Marketing Officer, Tel: 0131-314 0312, Mob: 07811 357711
NOTE TO EDITORS:
· National Science Week runs from 11-20 March 2005. The chimpanzee vocalisation exhibit will be located in the chimpanzee house at Edinburgh Zoo, and will be available every day from 10.30am to 4.00pm (Zoo opening hours are 9.00am – 5.00pm).
· Dr Zuberbühler and Katie Slocombe are members of the Scottish Primate Research Group which was formed in 1987, with a core membership of fieldworkers from the triangle of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Stirling Universities.
· Dr Zuberbühler is widely regarded as a world authority on primate behaviour, and he took part in the acclaimed BBC documentary series ‘Life of Mammals’ presented by Sir David Attenborough.
· The focus of the SPRG research is the natural behaviour, mentality and ecology of primates. Results are often of a kind that inform welfare and conservation policies, and members of the SPRG do not conduct invasive research.
· The Budongo Forest Project in Uganda, is co-ordinated by Professor Vernon Reynolds from the University of Oxford. It’s a long- term chimpanzee study site where information on chimpanzee behaviour is collected daily. The project aims to conserve the forest species and habitats through a mixture of research and education, working with local communities to explain the importance of protecting their native species.
· Edinburgh Zoo is host to many pieces of student research every year, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, and works in close association with several universities around Scotland, the north of England and the Netherlands.
· There are 11 chimpanzees in the group at Edinburgh Zoo, ranging in age from Liberius, an infant of 5 years, to Ricky who is approx 40 years old.
· Evaluation of this exhibit will be very important, as the Zoo has agreed it will have a long term future as a visitor exhibit in the new SHEFC funded Living Links Centre to be built in 2005.
Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st- andrews.ac.uk Ref: Fighting Talk 090305.doc View the latest University press releases at http://www.st- andrews.ac.uk