For the first time, researchers have found a nonhuman animal that seems to have a sense of the beat. Our distant primate relative, the Indri indri, is a critically endangered species of lemur found only in Madagascar. These black-and-white primates are the weight of a small dog and look like a cross between a cat and a koala. And they sound — depending on whom you ask — like the shriek of a balloon quickly releasing air.
Andrea Ravignani, a cognitive biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, disagrees with the balloon part.
“Every scientific discipline has its concept of beauty, but I think their vocalizations are beautiful,” he said. “And also quite complex.”
Dr. Ravignani and his colleagues investigated that complexity and found that, although the last common ancestor between humans and indris lived over 77 million years ago, we’re more similar than you may think, at least when it comes to singing. They published their findings on Monday in Current Biology.