Chimpanzee vocal communication: what we know from the wild

Katie E. Slocombe, Nicole J. Lahiff, Claudia Wilke, Simon W. Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Vocal communication plays a vital role in the daily lives of our closest living relatives, chimpanzees. Unpacking the adaptive function of vocalisations, and the cognitive mechanisms underlying their production and comprehension is not only crucial for understanding chimpanzee behaviour, but also for inferring the capacities of our last common ancestors. Here, we review how observational and experimental methods have advanced our understanding of the vocal production and comprehension of wild chimpanzees. We discuss the impact of social and ecological factors on chimpanzee vocal communication, and review the inroads that have been made in elucidating the cognitive processes underpinning call production. We highlight approaches that may offer substantial future advances in knowledge and argue that whilst challenging to collect, data from wild populations is critical to building a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the communicative and cognitive abilities of our closest living relatives, and to tracing the evolutionary roots of human language.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101171
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent opinion in behavioral sciences
Early online date2 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
KS was funded by a European Research Council Grant ( REC-CoG2016_724608 ). SWT, NL and CW were funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant number: PP00P3_198912 (to SWT) and 315130_192620 (to SWT, NL and CW).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Chimpanzees
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Playback experiments
  • Vocal communication
  • Vocal comprehension
  • Vocal production

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