G-Tunes with a Message

Apes known as gibbons can rearrange the notes of their songs to communicate with one another.

By Emily Sohn, 00:00 AM January 3, 2007

Making music can be fun and relaxing. For gibbons in the forests of Southeast Asia, singing is also a way to communicate.

New research shows that these small apes vary the order of the notes in their tunes to get across certain messages. The system is simple, but it's the first evidence that apes use something called syntax, which is an early step toward humanlike language.

Gibbons, such as the one shown here, communicate by rearranging tunes that they sing.

Gibbons, such as the one shown here, communicate by rearranging tunes that they sing.

Esther Clarke, University of St. And...

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