The Jeuns

Study uncovers mysteries of lemur larynx

April 30, 2024 | by The Jeuns

New research has revealed that lemurs have the ability to exaggerate their size through a unique structure in their larynx that includes an extra set of vocal folds. This discovery was made by researchers from Kyoto University in Japan and Dr. Jacob Dunn of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge.

The presence of these additional vocal folds in the small primates native to Madagascar is said to be “one of a kind” according to the researchers. It is believed that this ability to mimic larger animals can offer benefits such as establishing territory and attracting mates.

Dr. Dunn, co-author of the study and associate professor in evolutionary biology at ARU, explained that all species of Madagascan lemurs have these twin vocal folds parallel to their regular vocal folds. This unique adaptation is thought to have evolved at least 35 million years ago from a common ancestor, providing an advantage to lemurs in competition for resources and mates.

By using CT scans of lemurs’ larynges and creating silicone models, researchers were able to study the effects of these extra vocal folds. The results showed that the additional folds not only enhance the complexity of their calls but also help lemurs sound larger than they really are by altering the frequency of their vocalizations.

This novel evolutionary adaption allows lemurs to communicate more efficiently over distances while expending less energy. The study concluded that this unique feature of their larynx is responsible for their wide range of calls and the ability to exaggerate their body size through vocalization.


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