"Hey, have you seen the new pop-up coffee shop on the East Side? It's got the best lattes!" This could be a rough translation of a chimpanzee conversation, if you replace "pop-up coffee shop" with "that large tree" and "lattes" with "fruit." Amazingly, researchers found that chimps regularly chat about their favorite fruits and describe the trees where they can be found.

These researchers, led by Ammie Kalan from the Max Planck Institute, analyzed chimpanzee calls relating to several different fruits and nuts. They found significantly higher-pitch calls associated with one fruit, the Nauclea fruit, which was also the fruit that the chimps seemed to enjoy eating the most (based on proportion of time spent eating). More interestingly, the calls about Nauclea fruits also included information about the size of the tree in which the fruit was found- deeper calls were correlated with larger trees (which have more, and better, fruit).

Why is this so important? Because "functionally referential" calls are a critical component of human language. And this is the first study to find that chimpanzee calls not only refer to food type and quality, but other related details- in this case, the size of the tree where the food is found.


For more details, read the original study here:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347214004643