A new study has revealed that when chimpanzees talk to each other by smacking their lips together, they do it at nearly the same speed as when humans chat with one another. In fact, the research indicates that our human ancestors were able to communicate in some sort of language when the two lineages split apart million of years ago.
Primatologists from the universities of Warwick and St. Andrews noticed this incredible connection by watching video clips of African apes while they were grooming each other at zoos in Edinburgh, United Kingdom and Leipzig, Germany. Then they compared the zoo footage with the behavior of wild chimpanzees in Uganda and they discovered that they moved their lips between two and four times every second. This is a fascinating detection as humans can move their lips between two and seven times each second.
It’s been previously noted that gibbons and orangutans can move their lips between two and five times per second, however, they’ve been separated from the ancient human family tree for over eight million years.
“Speech is often seen as the last thing which sets us apart from the animals, but these findings show even this is held in common with chimpanzees,” stated Dr. Adriano Lameira from the University of Warwick and is one of the co-authors of the study. He went on to explain, “Our results prove that spoken language was pulled together within our ancestral lineage using “ingredients” that were already available and in use by other primates and hominins,” adding, “This dispels much of the scientific enigma that language evolution has represented so far.”
Another interesting discovery that they made was that some groups of chimpanzees had different rhythms than others when they communicated. “Just as Italian people speak much faster than Japanese people, for instance, the pace of “speech” seems to vary for chimpanzees,” Dr. Lameira explained, adding, “It is much faster in zoos and we wonder if this is because they are exposed to more rapid human speech all day long from their zookeepers.”
This is yet another fascinating revelation regarding the topic of speech evolution as almost six months ago I wrote an article on how human speech originated almost 20 million years earlier than previously believed. I reported that while it was long thought that our ancient ancestors would have needed a low larynx in order to produce vowel sounds, researchers noted that it’s not entirely unique to humans and that it isn’t necessary to produce those types of sounds.