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Orangutans More Similar to Humans: Share Travel Plans A Day Before Trip

Update Date: Sep 12, 2013 11:03 PM EDT
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Apes are considered to be the closest relative to mankind and new research shows a similar characteristic we share with these creatures.

Anthropologists at the University of Zurich suggest that the resonating "long calls" made by sexually mature male orangutans are directed toward where they are going to go as much as 22 hours later - they may be warning adversaries and tipping off friends, kin and mates to their future position.

The study, published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS One -- was completed over a five-year period. The researchers closely followed the males as they traveled on 320 days during the 1990s.

During that time, researchers reported 1,169 "long calls" from 15 male flanged orangutans on 320 days.

Researchers recorded the movements of the animals following these calls that can be heard more than half a mile through the forest. The cheek pads of the animals act as a narrow funnel for sound, allowing the calls to be amplified. 

"This guy basically thinks ahead," said anthropologist Carel van Shaik, lead author of the study. "They're continuously updating their Google Maps so to speak. Based on that, they're planning what to do next."

The apes didn't just call once, they keep at it, calling more than 1,100 times over the 320 days.

"Our study makes it clear that wild orangutans do not simply live in the here and now, In this sense, then, they have become a bit more like us," he added.

"To optimize the effect of these calls, it thus would make sense for the male to call in the direction of his future whereabouts, if he already knew about them," explains van Schaik. "We then actually observed that the males traveled for several hours in approximately the same direction as they had called."

Based on previous studies and monitoring, van Schaik figured the male lets the world know his plans so females can come to him or stay close. Some females may want to stay within earshot in case they are harassed by other males and need protection. Others can come to mate.

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