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A convergent interaction engine: vocal communication among marmoset monkeys


Burkart, J M; Adriaense, J E C; Brügger, R K; Miss, F M; Wierucka, K; van Schaik, C P (2022). A convergent interaction engine: vocal communication among marmoset monkeys. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 377(1859):online.

Abstract

To understand the primate origins of the human interaction engine, it is worthwhile to focus not only on great apes but also on callitrichid monkeys (marmosets and tamarins). Like humans, but unlike great apes, callitrichids are cooperative breeders, and thus habitually engage in coordinated joint actions, for instance when an infant is handed over from one group member to another. We first explore the hypothesis that these habitual cooperative interactions, the marmoset interactional ethology, are supported by the same key elements as found in the human interaction engine: mutual gaze (during joint action), turn-taking, volubility, as well as group-wide prosociality and trust. Marmosets show clear evidence of these features. We next examine the prediction that, if such an interaction engine can indeed give rise to more flexible communication, callitrichids may also possess elaborate communicative skills. A review of marmoset vocal communication confirms unusual abilities in these small primates: high volubility and large vocal repertoires, vocal learning and babbling in immatures, and voluntary usage and control. We end by discussing how the adoption of cooperative breeding during human evolution may have catalysed language evolution by adding these convergent consequences to the great ape-like cognitive system of our hominin ancestors.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Revisiting the human ‘interaction engine’: comparative approaches to social action coordination’.

Abstract

To understand the primate origins of the human interaction engine, it is worthwhile to focus not only on great apes but also on callitrichid monkeys (marmosets and tamarins). Like humans, but unlike great apes, callitrichids are cooperative breeders, and thus habitually engage in coordinated joint actions, for instance when an infant is handed over from one group member to another. We first explore the hypothesis that these habitual cooperative interactions, the marmoset interactional ethology, are supported by the same key elements as found in the human interaction engine: mutual gaze (during joint action), turn-taking, volubility, as well as group-wide prosociality and trust. Marmosets show clear evidence of these features. We next examine the prediction that, if such an interaction engine can indeed give rise to more flexible communication, callitrichids may also possess elaborate communicative skills. A review of marmoset vocal communication confirms unusual abilities in these small primates: high volubility and large vocal repertoires, vocal learning and babbling in immatures, and voluntary usage and control. We end by discussing how the adoption of cooperative breeding during human evolution may have catalysed language evolution by adding these convergent consequences to the great ape-like cognitive system of our hominin ancestors.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Revisiting the human ‘interaction engine’: comparative approaches to social action coordination’.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Evolutionary Anthropology
Special Collections > NCCR Evolving Language
Special Collections > Centers of Competence > Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language Evolution
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Agricultural and Biological Sciences, General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Language:English
Date:12 September 2022
Deposited On:28 Nov 2022 08:16
Last Modified:27 Jun 2024 01:40
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:0962-8436
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2021.0098
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID31003A_172979
  • : Project TitleAll together now- Cooperation beyond the dyad. A comparative perspective on the evolution of human hyper-cooperation
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID101001295
  • : Project TitleENGINE - Engineering Interdependence - A Window into the Evolution of the Human Mind
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID51NF40_180888
  • : Project TitleNCCR Evolving Language (phase I)
  • Content: Accepted Version