Red-Handed Monkeys Can Change ‘Accent’ to Avoid Conflict!

Red-handed tamarins, a species of monkey, is able to change its ‘accent’ to avoid conflict when it enters the territory of another species, a study has revealed.

Examining the behaviour of 15 groups of two types of tamarin monkeys living in the Brazilian Amazon allowed Anglia Ruskin University scientists to make the discovery.

They found that red handed-tamarins adopt the long calls used by pied tamarins when they enter their territory, and do so to avoid fights over territory and resources.

Pied tamarins are critically endangered and have one of the smallest ranges of any primate in the world, much of it around the Brazilian city of Manaus.

They live in a similar area to red-handed tamarins, who occupy a generally larger region covering the north-eastern Amazon and have a greater vocal flexibility.

Study authors suggest that by using this greater vocal flexibility, including a much greater use of calls than pied tamarins, the red-handed tamarins keep the peace.

One species of monkey copies the accent of another when it enters its territory, possibly to avoid conflict, research has indicated.

Scientists examined the behaviour of 15 groups of two types of tamarin monkeys in the Brazilian Amazon.

Red-handed tamarins adopt the long calls used by pied tamarins when they enter their territory, according to the study.

Co-author Dr Jacob Dunn, associate professor in Evolutionary Biology at Anglia Ruskin University, said this is the first study to reveal asymmetric call convergence in primates, with one species call becoming the ‘lingua franca’ in shared territories.

Because these tamarin species rely on similar resources, changing their ‘accents’ in this way is likely to help these tiny primates identify one another more easily in dense forest and potentially avoid conflict,’ Dunn explained.

Lead author Tainara Sobroza, of Brazilian research institution the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia, said it can be difficult to tell tamarin species apart.

Sobroza said: ‘During our research we were surprised to discover they also sound the same in the areas of the forest they cohabit.’

‘We found that only the red-handed tamarins change their calls to those of the pied tamarins, and this only happens in places where they occur together,’ she added.

‘Why their calls converge in this way is not certain, but it is possibly to help with identification when defending territory or competing over resources.’

Dunn said that it has been known for some time that when closely related species overlap in a geographic area it leads to some ‘interesting evolutionary patterns’.

One famous example of this is the Galapagos finches, originally studied by Charles Darwin, whose beaks evolved to specialise on different foods to avoid competition.

“In some cases, rather than diverging to become more different from one another, some closely related species converge to show similar traits,’ he explained.

That appears to be the case with the tamarins, with the red-handed species adapting their call to match that of the pied tamarins, creating a common language.

The research is published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

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