Last year, a German primatologist named Eva Luef at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, made a ridiculously wonderful observation about gorillas, our furry cousins who split from humans evolutionary about 10 million years ago. While in the Republic of Congo, Leuf noticed that the populations of two groups of wild western lowland gorillas have the habit of humming and singing food songs to themselves while they eat (!!!!), and the world is all the better with this newfound knowledge.While chimpanzees and bonobos have previously been known to make food-related noises, the phenomenon has never been documented with gorillas. Plus, while analyzing her observations, she realized that gorillas actually make two different types of sounds while eating. As Brian Owens of New Scientist describes them, one sound is a “a steady low-frequency tone that sounds a bit like a sigh of contentment” (Editor’s note: which is adorable), and the other sound is “a series of short, differently pitched notes that sounds a little like someone humming a random melody” (Editor’s note: which is also adorable).Leuf also noticed that gorillas don’t “sing the same song over and over” when they’re “composing their little food songs;” rather, each one is totally unique. Most importantly, according to a gorilla handler at the Toronto Zoo, Ali Vella-Irving, “Each gorilla has its own voice: you can really tell who’s singing. And if it’s their favorite food, they sing louder.” Again, I will repeat for emphasis: If it’s their favorite food, they sing louder. Never have I felt such close kinship with out hairy gorilla cousins.Gorilla Sighing From Contentment While Eating Gorilla Singing A Happy Little Ditty To Itself While Eating Across gorillas in captivity and in the wild, Leuf noted that only the dominant silverback males sang happy food songs in the wild, positing that this may be the way the alpha male ensures order during meals and lets the rest of the group know when its time to start and stop eating. Meanwhile, in the egalitarian setting that is captivity in a zoo, all gorillas can joyfully express their contentment at eating mostly stems, bamboo shoots, fruits, and sometimes termites, ants, and their larvae. Great work gorillas, sounds delicious! Humanization of gorillas briefly aside, researchers are now using this information to research the evolution of language as well as to give insight into the food calls of other species, so besides being my favorite fact I’ve ever learned, there’s also future insights that will continue to come from this adorable observation. [H/T New Scientist]
Established in late 2006, the Harvard China Fund (HCF) is Harvard University’s “academic venture fund” for China. In service of the entire University, it supports teaching and research on China and promotes Harvard’s presence in China. The University has allocated $15 million in support of the fund, and has made a commitment to raise $50 million over the fund’s first 10 years.The HCF’s Steering Committee, composed of faculty across the University’s Schools, has identified three core objectives:Partnerships — To promote teaching and research about and in China, in collaboration with institutions across Greater China.Students — To prepare Harvard students for lifelong engagement with China, and to support Chinese students coming to Harvard for graduate and professional education.Presence — To strengthen Harvard’s capacity to address challenges facing China through the new Harvard Center Shanghai.The Harvard China Student Internship Program is a collaborative effort involving Harvard’s Office of Career Services and Office of International Programs, together with Chinese corporations and multinational companies in China. Students experience modern China through their internship placements and gain an introduction to Chinese history and culture, all while learning firsthand about life in the workplace. The structure of the program includes a 10-week internship, a weeklong field trip, and numerous cultural events.For more about HCF and for a list of this year’s interns.