Friday, February 17, 2012

Your Friday Monkey Dacker Flautist

Koko the gorilla is world-famous for her ability to communicate with humans using phrases in American Sign Language, and for her gentle play with pet cats. Now, a new study on Koko's play with wind instruments shows that she skillfully controls how she breathes.

That's a knockout conclusion because scientists have thought that humans alone, out of all the primates, can gain skillful, voluntary control over the act of breathing... These captive actions challenge conclusions reached by studying fossils of extinct human ancestors. One influential paper suggests, for instance, that only late in evolutionary history did muscles and nerves allow for fine control of breathing, and thus, speech.
 The original hypothesis, that only humans, and indeed, maybe only modern humans, had the fine motor control over breathing (and hence speech) always seemed to me to be an unnecessarily wishful and pro-human sentiment.  I'm glad that Koko has done her part to help break the myth of human uniqueness.  We's all just monkeys...

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