Japanese scientists recently decided to make some gibbons inhale helium, supposedly in order to find out how it is exactly that these monkeys produce the sounds which distinguish them amongst species that are similar to them.
However, the conclusion they reached is a pretty amazing one: the helium showed that the gibbons produce sounds very much like human opera singers do. Apparently, this suggests that the ways in which humans and these monkeys control their vocal chords are more similar than one might expect.
“Our speech was thought to have evolved through specific modifications in our vocal anatomy. However, we've shown how the gibbons' distinctive song uses the same vocal mechanics as soprano singers, revealing a fundamental similarity with humans,” says one of the researchers involved in carrying out this study.
Although the idea of making gibbons inhale helium is one that is unlikely to easily pop into the minds of biologists, we guess that it is a good thing that these Japanese scientists saw it fit to make this innovative experiment.