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Vocal Communication in Chimpanzees and Bonobos: A Window into the Social World

Vocal Communication in Chimpanzees and Bonobos: A Window into the Social World

Chapter:
(p.281) 12 Vocal Communication in Chimpanzees and Bonobos: A Window into the Social World
Source:
Chimpanzees in Context
Author(s):
Zanna Clay
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226728032.003.0012

Investigating how animals produce and understand vocalizations can provide a useful window through which to explore the underlying social awareness driving their communication. It can also provide insights into the similarities and differences shaping the behavior of closely related species. Despite being closely related and showing many similarities, research highlights some striking differences between chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and their close sister species, the bonobos (P. paniscus). This chapter reviews recent research and explores what vocal communication can tell us about these species’ social worlds. In this chapter, chimpanzee and bonobo vocal expressions of social dominance and socio-reproductive strategies are compared as well as the role that vocalizations play in travel and coordination between groups. Research highlights considerable degrees of social awareness, with evidence that both species can produce vocalizations in socially-directed, flexible and intentional ways to pursue different social, ecological and reproductive strategies. Given the equally close genetic relationship that chimpanzees and bonobos share with humans, comparing their communicative behaviors enables a more balanced and nuanced picture of what our own species might have looked like before we became human.

Keywords:   great apes, vocalizations, language evolution, social cognition, vocal flexibility, sociality, communication

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