Gorillas Hum Little Songs While They Eat

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Whistling and humming while you go about your daily business might seem like typical human behavior, but according to a new study, gorillas also enjoy “singing” and “humming” when enjoying a tasty meal.

Making vocal calls when eating food is a trait commonly seen in birds and mammals, but it's also seen in other great apes such as chimpanzees and bonobos. However, there’s only passing anecdotal evidence of the behavior in gorillas.

To set the record straight, researcher Eva Maria Luef of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and her colleagues sought to create the first scientific and detailed analysis of gorilla food-associated calling. During an expedition to the Republic of Congo, they recorded and analyzed the “singing” behavior in two separate groups of wild western lowland gorillas. Their work was published in PLOS One.

In case you’re wondering what a gorilla song might sound like, there’s some footage (not taken as apart of the study) showing the behavior below, as reported by Discovery News.



Their research found that the likelihood a gorilla hums varied depending on the food they were eating: aquatic vegetation, flowers, or seeds led to a high likelihood of calls, while eating insects showed the least.

Additionally, the dominant adult males sung far more than females or juveniles. While you might think it was to demonstrate some kind of hierarchical dominance, the researchers thought it was simply to reduce the risk of attracting predators to the more vulnerable individuals of the group.

The authors explain that the behavior is likely to have a social and communicative function, perhaps even aiding coordination and social cohesion by expressing a sense of “well-being” to the group.

Many of the conclusions remain hazy, but Luef and her colleagues now hope to conduct further work on gorilla vocalizations, with the aim of possibly revealing the early development of vocal communication and language among human ancestors.

[H/T: Discovery News]

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