Following the path of language evolution: Chimpanzees in their natural environment; Kibale National Park, Uganda.  ©MPIO/Mitani

Closely related species

Studies on communicative skills of very closely related species (humans – great apes) enable us to draw inferences about the evolutionary origins of human language.

Bonobos use sophisticated communicative strategies to strengthen and form social bonds.

Bonobos (Pan paniscus)

Our studies on bonobos take place at two field stations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):

(1) Lui Kotal, Salonga National Park (in cooperation with Dr. B. Fruth and Dr. G. Hohmann, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany), and

(2) Wamba, Luo Scientific Reserve (in cooperation with Prof. T. Furuichi, Kyoto University, Japan).


Chimpanzees mainly feed on plants and fruits. However, they also hunt other species, such as red colobus monkeys (Procolobus badius), resulting in complex, communicative sharing events.

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

We observe the communicative behaviour of chimpanzees at three field stations in Uganda and the Ivory Coast in Africa:

(1) Kanyawara, Kibale National Park, Uganda (in cooperation with Dr. M. Muller, University of New Mexico, USA and Prof. R. Wrangham, Harvard University, USA),

(2) Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda (in cooperation with Prof. J. Mitani, University of Michigan, USA and Prof. D. Watts, Yale University, USA), and

(3) Taï, Taï National Park, Ivory Coast (in cooperation with Dr. R. Wittig and Prof. C. Boesch, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany).

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