Do You Share This Food Habit with Gorillas?

(Image credit: Andrew Skudder)cc by 2.0

As a civilized species, there are certain rituals we’ve come to adopt when it’s time to eat. I’m talking about things like washing our hands, setting out napkins, pouring glasses of water (or wine!), and indulging in some healthy conversation … perhaps by way of song.

Gorillas might not be civilized enough to adopt many of the aforementioned highfalutin rituals, but they have one of their own that’s pretty unique. According to a recent article, gorillas sing and hum “little food songs” while they eat — and they’re even louder when they’re eating their favorite food.

The “songs” have two distinct styles; the first is a low-pitched hum, and the second is a higher-pitched “random melody.” Listen for yourself:

Researchers believe that the tones could help us learn more about the beginnings of language because dominant male gorillas use them to create community around the experience of eating. The songs are thought to help other gorillas in the group understand that it’s time to eat — not time to move along.

I’m not certain that a meal has ever driven me to song in the traditional sense of the word, but I’ve certainly called my family to a meal before. Even if it’s not quite the same — and even if it does mean nothing — it’s still really fun to imagine what might be going through an animal’s mind while they’re digging into their favorite — or least favorite — meal!