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Marmoset Baby Talk

August 17, 2015

A new study suggests baby marmosets’ calls change as they grow up – questioning more than 50 years of conventional wisdom about primate vocalizations.



Marmoset_Carmem A. Busko Wikipedia CC BY-2.5 cropped

Marmoset climbing sideways on a branch. (Carmem A. Busko/Creative Commons BY-2.5)

Monkey baby talk. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(newborn marmoset calls)

Baby marmoset monkeys start out life producing a variety of vocalizations, but within 2 months their calls become much more consistent:

(2 month marmoset calls)

In the journal Science, Princeton neuroscientist Asif Ghazanfar and his colleagues report that their findings contradict a long-held assumption in animal behavior.

ASIF GHAZANFAR (Princeton University):

It was generally thought that when primates are born that they’re already able to produce all of the vocalizations that they’re going to need for the rest of their lives; that there’s no involvement of experience.


Ghazanfar says the youngsters who received the most vocal feedback from their parents developed their calls the fastest, and that the species could make a good model for understanding early vocal development in humans. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.