Roberta Salmi, a primatologist at the University of Georgia, has discovered a new sound that's being made by gorillas at Zoo Atlanta. Salmi describes it as a "snough" – a cross between a sneeze and a cough. The gorillas make the noise, which has never been observed in the wild, when zookeepers with food are close by. They seem to be using the noise to capture the attention of the zookeepers. According to ScienceNews,
Salmi and her colleagues wondered if the animals snoughed at other times too. So they recorded eight western lowland gorillas at Zoo Atlanta in three different scenarios: when a bucket of fresh grapes, a keeper or a keeper holding the grapes sat outside the enclosure. Gorillas snoughed most when both the keeper and the food sat nearby, the team found. And they made other noises that can draw human attention, like clapping, chest-beating or banging on the enclosure. When the gorillas saw just grapes or just the keeper, they stayed mostly silent.
The gorillas at Zoo Atlanta seem hilarious, and dramatic:
As the animals wheeze out the noise, they open their mouths wide, almost as if they're preparing to yodel. "It's very theatrical," Salmi says. And it seemed to crop up only in a specific situation — when keepers showed up with food.
Definitely my kind of animals. Now, excuse me while I go snough for some food!