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Today's Distraction: Bonobo Apes 'Talk' About Food

Three-month-old baby bonobo Nakarla plays with its mother Ukela on March 19, 2008 at the zoo in Frankfurt. i

Three-month-old baby bonobo Nakarla plays with its mother Ukela on March 19, 2008 at the zoo in Frankfurt. Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images
Three-month-old baby bonobo Nakarla plays with its mother Ukela on March 19, 2008 at the zoo in Frankfurt.

Three-month-old baby bonobo Nakarla plays with its mother Ukela on March 19, 2008 at the zoo in Frankfurt.

Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images

If there is one thing I've learned from our friends over at 13.7, it's that bonobo apes are pretty amazing creatures. Ursula Goodenough, a biologist, has written quite a bit about the time she's spent at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa and how much of us she sees in them.

Yesterday, the journal PLoS One published a rather simple, yet illuminating paper in which researchers from the University of St Andrews, Scotland explained that bonobos not only communicate with other bonobos when they've found food, but they also make distinct vocalizations for when they've found good or bad food.

So here's the sound they make when they've found some kiwi, a food they like:

Yummy Food

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Yummy Food

And here's the sound they make when they've found apples, a food they think is OK:

OK food

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OK food

So what does it mean? The BBC spoke to primate expert and one of the authors of the study Dr. Zanna Clay:

"These animals are highly intelligent and this kind of study highlights their ability to extract meaning from listening to each other's vocalisations," said Dr Clay.

Dr Clay explained that although bonobos' communication is not comparable to that of humans, their listening skills are remarkable.

"Although we found that the bonobos produce sequences of calls, the way they produce them is unlike syntax in language, or how we structure words and sentences together in strings," she said.

"However, the way that the listening bonobos interpreted these sequences as meaningful shows some similarities with how we listen to language and understand it."

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