Monkey-Human Ancestors Got Music 30 Million Years Ago :
Music skills evolved at least 30 million years ago in the common ancestor of humans and monkeys, according to a new study that could help explain why chimpanzees drum on tree roots and monkey calls sound like singing.
The study…also suggests an answer to this chicken-and-egg question: Which came first, language or music? The answer appears to be music.
“Musical behaviors would constitute a first step towards phonological patterning, and therefore language,” …, once we hear a certain pattern like Do-Re-Mi, we listen for it again. Hearing something like Do-Re-Fa sounds wrong because it violates the expected pattern.
Normally monkeys don’t respond the same way, but this research grabbed their attention since it used sounds within their frequency ranges.
‘Language Gene’ May Influence Learning Too
“This kind of experiment is usually done by presenting monkeys with human speech,” co-author Ruth Sonnweber said. “Designing species-specific music-like stimuli may have helped the squirrel monkeys’ perception.”
The squirrel monkeys demonstrated that they understood sound patterns — and when they changed. This ability, central to language and music, therefore evolved at least 30 million years ago in the small and furry tree-dwelling primate that was the last common ancestor of humans and monkeys. It’s likely that all primates today share the skills.