This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Monkey Lip Smacks Provide New Insights Into the Evolution of Human Speech

Scientists have traditionally sought the evolutionary origins of human speech in primate vocalizations, such as monkey coos or chimpanzee hoots. But unlike these primate calls, human speech is produced using rapid, controlled movements of the tongue, lips and jaw. Speech is also learned, while primate vocalizations are mostly innately structured. New research published in Current Biology by W. Tecumseh Fitch, Head of the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna, supports the idea that human speech evolved less from vocalizations than from communicative facial gestures.

Researchers at Princeton and the University of Vienna used x-ray movies to investigate lip-smacking gestures in macaque monkeys. Lip smacks are made by many monkey species in friendly, face-to-face situations (e.g. between mothers and their infants). Although lip-smacking makes a quiet sound (similar to "p p p p"), it is not accompanied by phonation, which is produced by vocal cord vibration in the "voice box" or larynx.

Although superficially lip-smacking appears to involve simply rapid opening and closing of the lips, the x-ray movies show that lip-smacking is actually a complex behaviour, requiring rapid, coordinated movements of the lips, jaw, tongue and the hyoid bone (which provides the supporting skeleton for the larynx and tongue). Furthermore these movements occur at a rate of about 5 cycles per second, the same as speech, and are much faster than chewing movements (about 2.5 cycles per second). Thus, although lip smacking superficially resembles "fake chewing," it is in fact very different, and more like speech.

Read more

TAGGED: BEHAVIOR, EVOLUTION


RELATED CONTENT

Planet of the apes

Stephen Cave - Financial Times Comments

What we really know about our evolutionary past – and what we don’t

WALK DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE ~ 25 - 26...

- - Ancestors Trail Walk Comments

WALK DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE ~ 26 AUGUST 2012 - event begins on Saturday 25 August

Astrophysicists simulate 14 billion...

Liat Clark - Wired.co.uk Comments

Astrophysicists simulate 14 billion years of cosmic evolution in high resolution

Study casts doubt on human-Neanderthal...

Alok Jha - The Guardian Comments

Cambridge scientists claim DNA overlap between Neanderthals and modern humans is a remnant of a common ancestor

Why do organisms build tissues they...

- - Science Blog Comments

Why, after millions of years of evolution, do organisms build structures that seemingly serve no purpose?

New flat-faced human species possibly...

Charles Choi - CBS News Comments

Four decades ago, in 1972, the Koobi Fora Research Project discovered the enigmatic fossilized skull known as KNM-ER 1470 which ignited a now long-standing debate about how many different species of early Homos existed.

MORE

MORE BY --

Paddlefish's Doubled Genome May...

-- - Science Daily Comments

Paddlefish have had their genome duplicated, which may have impacted how fins develop into limbs.

Superfast evolution in sea stars

-- - UC Davis News Comments

How quickly can new species arise? In as little as 6,000 years, according to a study of Australian sea stars.

Vicar condemns hotel after it replaces...

-- - The Telegraph Comments

Hotel boss Wayne Bartholomew in unrepentant about his new choice of bedside reading for his guests despite an outcry from church authorities.

Sally Ride, first American woman in...

-- - CNN Comments

Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died Monday after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, her company said. She was 61.

Earliest music instruments found

-- - BBC News 11 Comments

Researchers have identified what they say are the oldest-known musical instruments in the world.

Debate: Can Atheists and Believers work...

-- - Rationalist Society of Australia 73 Comments

A debate between Chris Stedman, PZ Myers, and Leslie Cannold from April 15, 2012.

MORE

Comments

Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment