[monkeywire] Chimps exaggerate calls for help

carrie mclaren brooklynite282 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 18 15:14:55 EDT 2007

Chimps exaggerate calls for help
15 October 2007

Chimpanzees under attack exaggerate their screams to get help from
higher ranking group members, researchers from Fife have discovered.

The study found primates produce high-pitched and prolonged screams
when they were the victims of severe aggression such as beating.

Their cries were exaggerated if there was another higher-ranking chimp
in the area who could challenge the aggressor.

St Andrews University experts spent nine months in Budongo Forest, Uganda.

They recorded the apes' screams during attacks by chimps and carried
out a computerised analysis of the acoustics.

Dr Katie Slocombe from the university's School of Psychology, who led
the study, said: "We conclude victims use screams flexibly to recruit
help from others and have a complex understanding of third party

"They know exactly who can challenge who, and this knowledge of social
relationships influences their vocal production.

"If no-one is there to help them then the screams are normal but if
someone is about then they make it sound even worse than it is.

"This shows there is more flexibility in their vocal communication
than previously thought."

Similar characteristics

Dr Slocombe said they were still researching the underlying reasons
for the exaggerated screams.

"It could be that they are wanting to falsely deceive the higher
ranking chimpanzee into thinking it is really bad," she said.

Dr Slocombe said that while direct parallels could not be drawn
between the actions of the chimps and human behaviour, they displayed
similar characteristics.

She said children often did not cry when they hurt themselves while on
their own, but started crying if someone else was there.

The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council.

It is part of a wider study into the behaviour of chimpanzees.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences.

More information about the Monkeywire mailing list