Vocal Ontogeny in Macaques and Marmosets: Convergent and Divergent Lines of Development

  • John D. Newman


Of the many published studies of behavioral development in non-human primates (NHP), very few have had a comparative emphasis in which the developmental course of a behavior found in two taxa is compared. Where comparisons have been made, they consist of rather broad leaps between taxa, such as between NHP and songbirds or humans (e.g, Snowdon et al., 1986). The emphasis in these comparisons is on the emergence of apparently similar behaviorally relevant phenomena such as imitative learning. Within the published literature on NHP, developmental studies of individual species are becoming increasingly prominent, particularly for species which do well in captivity and can, therefore, be observed in great detail from birth. Communicative behavior, particularly vocalizations, have come under close scrutiny in several species, and, with the availability of instruments which can graphically represent vocalization time-histories (sound spectrographs and related forms of time history displays), some of the developmental details of a species’ vocal repertoire are being documented. One group of related species, the squirrel monkeys (Saimiri), has been studied over more than twenty years, and considerable information about vocal development is now available (see contribution by Biben, this volume). Representatives of two other primate groups, the genus Macaca and the callitrichids (marmosets and tamarins) also have been the subjects of detailed analyses of vocal development. Interestingly, in both of these primate taxa, efforts have been made to demonstrate an important role for learning in the acquisition of vocal communication skills (macaques: Gouzoules and Gouzoules, 1989; Masataka and Fujita, 1989; callitrichids: Elowson et al., 1992; Snowdon et al.,1986). While controversial, these pioneering efforts have kept alive the hope among primatologists that a non-human primate model for studying language development in human children may yet be found.


Rhesus Macaque Squirrel Monkey Japanese Macaque Call Type Common Marmoset 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • John D. Newman
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Comparative Ethology National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentNational Institutes of HealthPoolesvilleUSA

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