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The rhythm of haunting lemur songs is similar to that of human music

An eerie scream pierced the calm morning sky of the lowland rainforests of eastern Madagascar and soon joined. An unforgettable call is the call of Indri, an endangered lemur with…
A male indri (Indri indri) reaching for leaves
Nick Garbutt/Nature Picture Library/Alamy

An eerie scream pierced the calm morning sky of the lowland rainforests of eastern Madagascar and soon joined. An unforgettable call is the call of Indri, an endangered lemur with a height of 1 meter. Currently, research shows that primate barks have much in common with human music.

Chiara de Gregorio of the University of Turin, Italy, said Indri Indri sang to communicate with other family groups or to find and reunite her family. But the rhythmic range of this soul call, and that of other primates, remains poorly understood. So de Gregorio and her colleagues set out to analyze Indigo.

Researchers recorded songs from 20 different Indri groups and analyzed note timing over a 12-year period in Madagascar’s rainforest.

They found that Indri used two different types of rhythms. 1: 1 (notes are spaced like a metronome) and 1: 2 (one note is twice as far away as the previous note). This type of rhythm, or “category rhythm,” is common in human music.

“This is the first evidence that another mammal generally has human musical characteristics,” Degregorio said. She added that only two species of birds, the nightingales (Luscinia luscinia) and the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), are known to exhibit this characteristic when singing, but each exhibits a taxonomic rhythm.

“Instead, Indri shares two different rhythms with human music, which makes their songs very complex and clear,” she said.

The discovery of these universal musical traits in Indri may suggest that “essential musical traits are more deeply rooted in the primate lineage than one might imagine.” Gregorio said.

Moreover, given that lemurs and humans shared a common ancestor about 77 million years ago, the taxonomic rhythms of primates may have evolved twice independently.

The importance of rhythm to communication is unclear, as research focuses only on the temporal characteristics of calls. However, the author writes that these rhythms can often play a role in song coordination and social connections.

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Simon Townshend of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, who was not involved in the study, said the study “very shows” the value of using comparisons with other species to determine musical characteristics. .. Human race.

Alexandre Selma-Miracles of Aarhus University in Denmark wants a similar study of apes. Apes can also sing and are more closely related to humans as apes.

Degregorio and her team will investigate whether Indri was born using rhythm types or is learning them. Primates “have a lot to teach us,” but they face a dark future.

“All attempts to establish a captive population have failed and their habitat is disappearing very rapidly,” she said.

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