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The talking monkeys with the key to how language evolved

Doctor Dolittle wanted to talk to the animals - now scientists have discovered that certain monkeys, even if they're not talking to us, are at least talking to each other.

A research team in the Ivory Coast's Tai National Park found that Campbell's monkeys can add a simple sound to their alarm calls to create new ones and then combine them to convey even more information.

The researchers studied alpha males in six wild groups. These monkeys do not play a very social role but are alert to potential threats and disturbances and use their calls to highlight them.

Campbell's monkey
Chatty: The Campbell's monkeys can convey information to each other

The researchers discovered that the monkeys made several distinct alarm cries, among them calls described as 'boom', 'krak' and 'hok'. The team found that booms were sounded when a falling branch had been spotted or to initiate group travel.

These calls were then mixed in sequences with other calls in different situations to signal or warn about other things, such as other monkeys.

Klaus Zuberbuehler, author of the research paper from the University of St Andrews, said: 'This is the first time that we can demonstrate that these sequences convey something about the environment or an event the monkey has witnessed.'

The researchers say the findings could help to reveal more about the origins of language. Professor Zuberbueler added: 'Campbell's monkeys and humans separated from a common ancestor about 30 million years ago.

'This set of papers shows that in terms of the call morphology, there seem to be ancestral traits floating around the primate lineage that haven't been known before.'

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