Watch: Rocky the orangutan who learned to ‘talk’ like humans leaves scientists stunned

  • Eight-year-old orangutan named Rocky has astounded scientists by copying words and reproducing them in a “conversational context”
  • Rocky was able to learn new sounds and can control the action of his voice; in a manner that humans do when they are talking to someone
  • The team believe that Rocky can be the key to understanding how human speech evolved

DURHAM, England – Rocky, an orangutan, had left scientists stunned after he has learned to talk like a human.

John Von Radowitz mentioned in his article for Mirror Co UK that the eight-year-old primate has astounded scientists by copying words and reproducing them in a “conversational context”.

Scientists asked Rocky to play a game where he will mimic the tone and pitch of human vowel sounds.

After the activity, the scientists compared Rocky’s produced sounds against a large database of recordings of wild and captive orangutans, and it showed that what Rocky made were markedly different.

Scientists concluded that Rocky was able to learn new sounds and can control the action of his voice, in a manner that humans do when they are talking to someone.

The team believe that Rocky can be the key to understanding how human speech evolved.

“It’s not clear how spoken language evolved from the communication systems of the ancestral great apes,” said by lead researcher Dr. Adriano Lameria, from the University of Durham.

“Instead of learning new sounds, it has been presumed that sounds made by great apes are driven by arousal over which they have no control, but our research proves that orangutans have the potential capacity to control the action of their voices,” he added.

An article by Sanjana Agnihotri for India Today said that the scientist believed that what Rocky is showing is an indicative that the voice control shown by humans could have been derived from an evolutionary ancestor, something which is similar to the voice control capacities as those found in orangutans and in all great apes.

“This opens up the potential for us to learn more about the vocal capacities of early hominids that lived before the split between the orangutan and human lineages to see how the vocal system evolved towards full-blown speech in humans,” Lameria said.

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