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Chimpanzees Have Signature Drumbeat

New research suggests the animals broadcast their identity and location to find each other while traveling.

Chimpanzee drumming on a tree
Credit: Adrian Soldati | University of St. Andrews

In a rainforest in Uganda, a male chimpanzee runs toward a tree, letting out loud, grating screeches. It grabs the large root and bangs its feet rhythmically against the flat wooden surface. “If you hit [the roots] really hard, with a hand or a foot, it resonates and makes this big deep, booming sound that travels through the forest,” Catherine Hobaiter, a primatologist from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland told to BBC Inside Science.

Scientists have known about this drumming behaviour for years. But now, research published last week in Animal Behaviour suggests that each individual male has a unique drumming pattern he uses to broadcast information - such as where he is and what he’s doing - across long distances while traveling.

“We could often recognize who was drumming when we heard them; it was a fantastic way to find the different chimpanzees we were looking for,” Hobaiter, the paper’s senior author, tells the BBC. “If we could do it, we were sure they could, too.”


Although, of course, it's nothing like a gorilla 'actually' playing the drums - as in this fabulous Cadbury chocolate advert from 2007.


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