Orangutan communication sheds light on human speech origins

Research finds orangutans communicate using a complex repertoire of consonant-like calls, more so than African apes. Previous research has only linked the evolution of human language with the voiced-vowel sounds produced by non-human primates, despite human language being composed of vowel and consonant sounds. Orangutans’ tree-dwelling nature means they use their mouth, lips and jaw as a ‘fifth hand’, unlike ground-dwelling African apes. Their sophisticated use of their mouths, mean orangutans communicate using a rich variety of consonant sounds.

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