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Gibbon calls 'could shed light on human speech'

The secret communication of gibbons has been interpreted for the first time in a study published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

The research reveals the likely meaning of a number of distinct gibbon whispers, or “hoo” calls, responding to particular events and types of predator.

Esther Clarke, lead author of the research and a Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University, said a male and a female will sing together in the morning time - in what can be both a territorial and a sexual duet.

She said the “hoos” were distinct from each-other in significant ways, to the extent that they may provide clues on the evolution of human speech.

“It gives us clues to the evolutionary roots of complex communication-like language,” she said.

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