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Chimp Chatter Now up for Eavesdropping

Researchers from the Netherlands have made available online a digitized catalogue of more than 10 hours’ worth of chimpanzee calls. Karen Hopkin reports

Everybody loves chimps…especially their endearing entreaties. [sound] Scientists, too, love to listen to chimps chat. [sound] And they enjoy sharing these colorful commentaries with their colleagues. [sound] Now, anyone with a hankering for primate prattle can listen in. Because researchers from the Netherlands have made available online a digitized catalog of more than 10 hours’ worth of chimpanzee calls. The recordings are described in a new journal, published by Nature, called Scientific Data. [Frans X. Plooij et al: Longitudinal recordings of the vocalizations of immature Gombe chimpanzees for developmental studies]

The audio, which includes more than 1,000 separate data files, was captured in the early 1970s by the late Hetty van de Rijt-Plooij. She recorded the various screams, barks, and hoocalls made by a group of chimps, including 17 youngsters, living in the wild in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania. 

Van de Rijt-Plooij and her husband Frans Plooij were planning to study how chimp vocalizations change over the life of an individual. But they ended up focusing on how baby chimps behave, so their extensive recordings have remained largely unexplored.

One thing that pops out of this collection is that immature chimps grunt more than their adult counterparts [sound]. Which suggests that you don’t want to talk to baby Bonzo before he’s had his morning banana smoothie. 

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
 

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