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Well-Mannered Marmoset Monkeys Engage in Polite Conversation

Update Date: Oct 17, 2013 03:49 PM EDT

Humans aren't the only well-mannered species. A new study reveals that marmoset monkeys also know how to engage in conversational etiquette.

Researchers found that these tiny primates will engage one another for up to half an hour at a times in vocal turn-taking.

"We were surprised by how reliably the marmoset monkeys exchanged their vocalizations in a cooperative manner, particularly since in most cases they were doing so with individuals that they were not pair-bonded with," Asif Ghazanfar of Princeton University said in a news release.

"This makes what we found much more similar to human conversations and very different from the coordinated calling of animals such as birds, frogs, or crickets, which is linked to mating or territorial defense," Ghazanfar added.

Researchers explain that both humans and marmosets appear to be willing to "talk" to just about anyone, and without any impolite interruptions.

Researchers said the latest finding reveals that marmosets are quite special. Ghazanfar explains that chimpanzees and other great apes "not only don't take turns when they vocalize, they don't seem to vocalize much at all, period!"

For the study researchers placed marmosets in opposite corners of a room in which they could hear but not see each other. The study revealed that marmosets don't call at the same time. Instead, these small animals wait for about five seconds after one is finished to begin calling.

Researchers said additional studies on marmosets could help explain human communication and why conversations can sometimes go wrong.

"We are currently exploring how very early life experiences in marmosets-including those in the womb and through to parent-infant vocal interactions-can illuminate what goes awry in human communication disorders," Ghazanfar said.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology

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