Submitted by vos in Science

Researchers who followed and studied chimps in the Ugandan rainforest found that the animals drum out messages to one another on tree roots.

The scientists say that the signature rhythms allow them to send information over long distances, revealing who is where, and what they are doing.

Dr Catherine Hobaiter from the University of St Andrews explained that the wild apes use huge tree roots as a large wooden surface to drum on with their hands and feet.

"If you hit the roots really hard, it resonates and makes this big deep, booming sound that travels through the forest," she told BBC Radio 4's Inside Science programme.

Each male chimpanzee, the scientists found, uses a distinct pattern of beats. They combine it with with long-distance vocalisations, called pant-hoots. And different animals drum at different points in their call.

Lead researcher on this study, PhD student Vesta Eleuteri from the University of Vienna, described how some individuals have a more regular rhythm, like rock and blues drummers, while some have more variable rhythms, like jazz.

The animals also appeared only to use their signature rhythm when they were travelling. The researchers speculate that a chimp chooses whether or not to give his identity away.

"If you're showing off to a group around you - if you're displaying - you might not necessarily want the big alpha male who's around the corner to know who you are," said Dr Hobaiter. "You don't want to give the game away."



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