Singing Lemurs Join Humans in Possession of Rhythm

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These Singing Lemurs Are the Only Other Mammal Species to Possess Rhythm

by Rasha Aridi/Smithsonianmag.com

The shrieking, cacophonous call of an indri—a large, black-and-white lemur with buggy eyes—may not sound like much of a song, but it is. Indri indri, a critically endangered species native to Madagascar, use these tunes to communicate with their social groups, reports Nicola Davis for the Guardian.

Scientists recently discovered that their songs have a component that no other mammal species—besides humans—possesses: rhythm. The team of researchers published their findings in the journal Current Biology this week.



To better understand the origins of rhythm in humans, scientists are looking into how musically inclined other primate species might be.

“There is longstanding interest in understanding how human musicality evolved, but musicality is not restricted to humans,” says Andrea Ravignani, a cognitive biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, in a press release. “Looking for musical features in other species allows us to build an ‘evolutionary tree’ of musical traits and understand how rhythm capacities originated and evolved in humans.”

That’s what led Ravignani and his collaborators to spend 12 years collecting data in Madagascar. With microphones in hand, they ventured into the forests to record the lemurs’ bellows. Read More:

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