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  • Living with her family high above the ground, in the northern tropical forests of Colombia, you will find Shakira, a cotton-top tamarin with a penchant for conversation.

  • Say, "Hola!"

  • Though you may not realize it, this one-pound monkey communicates in a highly sophisticated language of 38 distinct calls based on variations of chirps and whistles.

  • The response she just gave is known as a "B chirp," a call often directed at humans.

  • To appreciate the complexities of Shakira's language, let's learn a few chirps and whistles, then examine how their combinations form grammatically structured sequences.

  • The chirp Shakira used to greet us, comes from a class of calls known as single frequency modulated syllables.

  • This class is made up of short duration calls, or chirps, and long duration calls, like screams and squeals.

  • Researchers have determined that there are eight different types of chirps categorized by stem upsweep, duration, peak frequency, and frequency change.

  • In addition, each chirp has its own unique meaning.

  • For example, Shakira's "C chirp" is used when she is approaching food.

  • Whereas her "D chirp" is only used when she has the food in hand.

  • Single whistles also exhibit a unique intention with each call and just as there are eight different chirps, there are five different whistles.

  • Based on frequency modulation, single whistles are subdivided into four categories: squeaks, initially modulated whistles, terminally modulated whistles, and flat whistles.

  • The language's quality of unique intention is wonderfully exemplified by the category of initially modulated whistles.

  • These whistles change based on the proximity of Shakira to other members of her family.

  • If Shakira is greater than 0.6 meters from her family, she'll sound a large initially modulated whistle.

  • But if she's less than 0.6 meters from her family, she'll sound a small initially modulated whistle.

  • Now that we've learned a few chirps and whistles, Shakira wants to show off by taking you through a quick day in her life with these calls.

  • While heading towards a feeding tree for her first meal of the day, she says, (monkey noise), a call most often used in relaxed investigations.

  • However, suddenly she spots the shadow of a hawk.

  • "E chirp," for alarm.

  • This call alerts her family to the presence of this predator, and Shakira jumps to the safety of an inner branch.

  • The coast seems clear, so Shakira makes her way towards her dad.

  • Wait, wait. Who is that?

  • Ah, it's her younger brother, Carlos.

  • Cotton-top tamarins often squeal during play wrestling.

  • Uh-oh! He's playing a little too roughly, and Shakira screams, alerting her parents to help her.

  • Her dad makes his way toward the ball of rolling fur and her brother stops.

  • Shakira shakes herself and scratches herself to get the hair on her head back in place.

  • Then, Shakira spots another group of unfamiliar tamarins and hears their normal long call.

  • She turns to her family.

  • Did you catch that?

  • First, there was a chirp and then a whistle.

  • This is what's known as a combination vocalization, a phrase that contains both a chirp and a whistle.

  • These are two calls strung together to convey a message.

  • The combination of these two elements alerts her family to the presence of another group, the "F chirp," and the distance they are away, the normal long call whistle.

  • In other words, Shakira just said a sentence.

  • Her simple demonstration is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • She's got trills, chatters, multiple whistle calls, more combination vocalizations, even twitters.

  • Yet sadly enough, we may not get to hear everything she has to say.

  • Mixed in with chirping sonatas from high above is the constant thud of a machete chopping trees.

  • Shakira's habitat in Colombia is being cut down, piece by piece, and if we don't work to protect the critically endangered cotton-top tamarin, it will become extinct in our lifetime.

  • If the chirp from one tamarin to the next has proven to be more than just idle chit chat, imagine what else we have left to discover.

  • Imagine what else Shakira can tell us.

Living with her family high above the ground, in the northern tropical forests of Colombia, you will find Shakira, a cotton-top tamarin with a penchant for conversation.

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C1 TED-Ed shakira chirp whistle frequency duration

【TED-Ed】How to speak monkey: The language of cotton-top tamarins - Anne Savage

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    稲葉白兎 posted on 2015/01/03
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