Isochrony as ancestral condition to call and song in a primate

De Gregorio, C., Maiolini, M., Raimondi, T., Carugati, F., Miaretsoa, L., Valente, D., Torti, V., Giacoma, C., Ravignani, A., & Gamba, M. (2024). Isochrony as ancestral condition to call and song in a primate. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/nyas.15151.
Animal songs differ from calls in function and structure, and have comparative and translational value, showing similarities to human music. Rhythm in music is often distributed in quantized classes of intervals known as rhythmic categories. These classes have been found in the songs of a few nonhuman species but never in their calls. Are rhythmic categories song-specific, as in human music, or can they transcend the song–call boundary? We analyze the vocal displays of one of the few mammals producing both songs and call sequences: Indri indri. We test whether rhythmic categories (a) are conserved across songs produced in different contexts, (b) exist in call sequences, and (c) differ between songs and call sequences. We show that rhythmic categories occur across vocal displays. Vocalization type and function modulate deployment of categories. We find isochrony (1:1 ratio, like the rhythm of a ticking clock) in all song types, but only advertisement songs show three rhythmic categories (1:1, 1:2, 2:1 ratios). Like songs, some call types are also isochronous. Isochrony is the backbone of most indri vocalizations, unlike human speech, where it is rare. In indri, isochrony underlies both songs and hierarchy-less call sequences and might be ancestral to both.
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