Gibbons on helium are like opera singers, research says

23 August 2012, 13:00

Gibbons use the same vocal projection techniques as opera singers, according to a new study carried out in Japan.

Giving helium to Gibbons might not be a normal method of scientific research, but a new study in Japan has done exactly that to show links between the vocal techniques of white handed Lar gibbons and opera singers.

The study concluded that, when their voices were modified to be much higher in pitch with helium, gibbon calls were projected with the same technique as a soprano might use to maintain volume at higher pitches.

By adjusting the shape of their vocal organs, the gibbons were naturally able to keep the same volume at much higher pitch. The scientists behind the study claim that evidence of the gibbons making changes means to their vocal techniques suggests that it's not just humans that are capable of such vocal control.

It is thought that the study will bring new insight to ideas about the evolution of primate vocalisations and human speech.