Abstract # 127:

Scheduled for Friday, June 22, 2012 04:30 PM-04:45 PM: Session 20 (Camellia ) Oral Presentation


VOCAL LEARNING IN CAPTIVE CHIMPANZEES (PAN TROGLODYTES): EVIDENCE OF FLEXIBILITY AND VOLUNTARY CONTROL

J. L. Russell1,2, W. D. Hopkins1,3 and J. P. Taglialatela1,2
1Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Division of Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience, 954 Gatewood Rd., Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA, 2Department of Biology and Physics, Kennesaw State University, 3Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University
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     Communication in non-human primates provides a window into the origins of human language. In chimpanzees, many studies have focused on manual gestures which are learned, used flexibly and produced intentionally. In contrast, the limited data on vocal behavior in chimpanzees suggests that vocalizations are fixed in both form and usage. Here, chimpanzees were trained to produce attention-getting sounds (AGS) using positive reinforcement techniques. The trainer utilized each chimpanzee’s natural propensity to produce species-typical facial expressions and vocalizations in various contexts to capture behavior that was then shaped towards the end goal of AGS. Eight of 12 chimpanzees attempted have been successfully trained to produce AGS. These eight subjects produced their first AGS in 1 to 10 sessions (mean=6.75). Sessions lasted an average of 11.1 minutes (range=5.00 to 22.25 minutes). Once a chimpanzee produced her first AGV, training sessions continued until the subject produced at least one AGS in ten training sessions. Seven of eight trained subjects produced AGS during a post-training vocalization assessment aimed to determine whether or not a chimpanzee produces AGS to get the attention of an inattentive human. These data indicate that chimpanzees can be trained to produce a communicative sound and then tactically deploy this signal during communicative interactions, demonstrating a level of oro-facial motor control and cognition previously thought to be absent in non-human primates.