Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Primate of the opera: What soprano singing apes on helium reveal about the human voice

Date:
August 23, 2012
Source:
Wiley
Summary:
Have you ever heard an opera singing ape? Researchers in Japan have discovered that singing gibbons use the same vocal techniques as professional soprano singers. The study explains how recording gibbons singing under the influence of helium gas reveals a physiological similarity to human voices.

Have you ever heard an opera singing ape? Researchers in Japan have discovered that singing gibbons use the same vocal techniques as professional soprano singers.
Credit: Martina Berg / Fotolia

Have you ever heard an opera singing ape? Researchers in Japan have discovered that singing gibbons use the same vocal techniques as professional soprano singers. The study, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, explains how recording gibbons singing under the influence of helium gas reveals a physiological similarity to human voices.

Related Articles


The research was led by Dr Takeshi Nishimura from the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University, Japan. His team studied the singing of a white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar) at Fukuchiyama City Zoo, in northern Kyoto.

A gibbon's song is acoustically unique among primates, with a loud melody which can be heard over two miles away. In the wild gibbons use their songs to communicate with neighboring pairs, strangers and potential mates through impenetrable jungle where visibility is poor.

"The complexity of human speech is unique among primates as it requires varied soft sounds made by the rapid movements of vocal tracts," said Dr Nishimura. "Our speech was thought to have evolved through specific modifications in our vocal anatomy. However, we've shown how the gibbons' distinctive song uses the same vocal mechanics as soprano singers, revealing a fundamental similarity with humans."

To explore these similarities the team conducted the first acoustic investigation on non-human primates using helium gas. The gas is famous for making human voices appear high pitched by shifting the resonance frequencies of the vocal tract upwards. The gas is useful for studying animal vocal mechanisms as it increases sound velocity and resonance frequencies.

The team recorded 20 gibbon calls in normal air atmosphere, before recording 37 calls in a helium-enriched atmosphere. The resulting sounds, which are available as audio files, reveal how gibbons can consciously manipulate their vocal cords and tract to make their distinctive sound.

"The lowest frequency of harmonics is amplified in a gibbon's song when performed in normal air," said Nishimura. "However, in a helium-enriched atmosphere the tuning of the vocal cord vibration and the resonance of the vocal tract are altered as the gas causes an upward shift of the resonance frequencies."

This supports the theory that, as with humans, there is independence between the origin of the sound and the vocal tools used to manipulate it.

This shows that gibbons use the same process for producing speech as humans, whereby acoustic sound originates from the larynx and is controlled by a filter, determined by the shape of the supralaryngeal vocal tract. This manipulation forms speech and is known as the 'source-filter' process of speech production.

Singing gibbons always, and with minimal effort, adopt the complex vocal techniques which are only mastered in humans by professional soprano singers. This discovery suggests the development of complex vocal abilities in humans was not due to unique evolutionary modifications. Instead it shows that humans share the biological fundamentals of vocalization with other primates, but in speech have simply acquired another of its most sophisticated forms.

"This is the first evidence that gibbons always sing using soprano techniques, a difficult vocalization ability for humans which is only mastered by professional opera singers," concluded Nishimura. "This gives us a new appreciation of the evolution of speech in gibbons while revealing that the physiological foundation in human speech is not so unique."

Gibbon call without helium: http://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/46693.php?from=219331

Gibbon call with helium: http://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/46694.php?from=219331


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hiroki Koda, Takeshi Nishimura, Isao T. Tokuda, Chisako Oyakawa, Toshikuni Nihonmatsu, Nobuo Masataka. Soprano singing in gibbons. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, July 2012 DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22124

Cite This Page:

Wiley. "Primate of the opera: What soprano singing apes on helium reveal about the human voice." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120823090954.htm>.
Wiley. (2012, August 23). Primate of the opera: What soprano singing apes on helium reveal about the human voice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120823090954.htm
Wiley. "Primate of the opera: What soprano singing apes on helium reveal about the human voice." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120823090954.htm (accessed February 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could a $34 Smartphone Device Improve HIV Diagnosis in Africa?

Could a $34 Smartphone Device Improve HIV Diagnosis in Africa?

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Feb. 27, 2015) A dongle that plugs into a Smartphone mimics a lab-based blood test for HIV and syphilis and can detect the diseases in 15 minutes, say researchers. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor Says Head Transplants Possible Within Two Years

Doctor Says Head Transplants Possible Within Two Years

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) An Italian doctor is saying he could stick someone&apos;s head onto someone else&apos;s body. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) reports. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Dentist Could Help Screen You For Diabetes

How Your Dentist Could Help Screen You For Diabetes

Newsy (Feb. 27, 2015) A new study from researchers at New York University suggests dentists could soon use blood samples taken from patients&apos; mouths to test for diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Tips to Makeover Your Health

The Best Tips to Makeover Your Health

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) If you&apos;re looking to boost your health this season, there are a few quick and easy steps to prompt you for success. Krystin Goodwin (@Krystingoodwin) has the best tips to give your health a makeover this spring! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins