Why can a parrot speak, but a human close relative can’t?

Children like to raise chickens and ducks. Urban youth prefer dogs and cats, while older people may be more willing to raise birds. Among them, talking parrots are more attractive. Trained parrots not only sing and entertain themselves, but even chat with the host and make a “hello” greeting. The ability to imitate human speech is often amazing.

However, have you ever wondered why parrots will learn to speak, and human close relatives such as gorillas will only make a noise, even if they imitate humans?

Parrots have an advantage in speaking

Let us first look at why parrots can imitate humans.

The vocal cords are an important part of the human vocal organs, and the sound tube is the parrot’s sounder, located at the junction of the trachea and the bronchus. When the airflow enters the tube, the bird can make a different sound with the vibration of the wall. In addition to the most basic characteristics of the bird’s vocal organs, the parrot’s snoring tube also has a musculature that can regulate the diameter, sound rate and tension of the syllabic tube. It can contract or relax under the control of the nervous system, thus issuing complex Tweets. Moreover, the talking parrot’s tongue is very developed, thick and sleek, and its shape is similar to that of a human tongue, which can help it imitate human speech.

In addition, parrots have a special brain structure. The general bird brain has a specific area that controls sound learning, called the “core”, but the parrot’s core area also has a “shell” that also participates in sound learning activities. Scientists speculate that the parrot’s strong ability to imitate may be related to the outer shell region, and the sequence of genes in this structure may explain why parrots mimic various sounds and dance with music. However, the specific vocal mechanism has yet to be further explored by scientists.

Why can’t human close relatives talk?

Now that we understand why parrots can talk, let us turn our attention to our close relatives. Scientists have long believed that non-human primates do not speak because they do not have structures that can be pronounced like humans, but new research shows that they can’t talk because they are not because of vocal cords, but because they have not evolved to produce advanced The brain of the language cannot produce as complex a voice as a human language.

Scientists used X-ray images to create vocal cord models of animals such as macaques, and found that macaques can easily emit many different sounds, including the most basic five vowels: A, E, I, O, and U. This indicates that the vocal organs of macaques are capable of speaking, and there is no doubt that the brain is the factor that influences their language ability.

The researchers believe that this is mainly related to two regions of the brain: the cortical-associated region (which is the core of the higher-level brain function, which is considered to be the basis for the primate to complete complex behavior) and the brainstem nucleus (which controls the vocal muscles) . When these areas of the brain are larger or have a larger proportion in the brain, the primate will have a stronger vocal ability, and vice versa will have a weaker ability to emit a unique sound. For example, chimpanzees and bonobos have a flexible tongue that can emit 40 to 50 different sounds, while golden tree bears use only two different sounds because the cortical-associated regions and brainstem cores are different. So although human close relatives have vocal structures, they cannot mimic or replicate human language because of the lack of necessary neural control.

Parrot tongue is just a conditional reflection

There are unique ways of communicating information between creatures, such as dog barking, bee dance, and chemical signals between plants, and human complex language is our important communication tool, which can be said to be our greatest evolutionary advantage. Then, parrots will learn to speak, and human close relatives will only make a snoring. Does this mean that parrots are the successors of global domination, and human close relatives are not as powerful as they think?

The answer is of course no. Although some parrots do have the advantage of imitating the human voice in terms of physiological conditions, in fact, the parrots who speak human language can’t understand the human language. They just copy and imitate according to the sound they hear, just like we don’t understand Italy. The language, but imitating the Italian singing “My Sun”, is not based on understanding. So human language is still our most unique evolutionary advantage.

Since they don’t understand, why should they imitate the human voice? Some people think that parrots are social creatures, and they need to interact with their biological partners. When they are raised as pets, they regard the human master as a family and want to interact with humans. Because human masters can’t learn the language of the birds, they have to imitate the language of the master to attract attention. Of course, this kind of statement is only a fairy tale interpretation, and parrot tongue is actually a kind of conditional reflection. For example, when people train a parrot, they associate the sound of knocking on the door with “please come in” to stimulate the parrot. The parrot stores these signals and, after repeated stimulation, forms a conditional launch. So when it hears the knock on the door, it may yell “Please come in.”

However, whether you want to interact with people or just a conditional reflection, talking parrots bring us endless fun.

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