In New York City’s Central Park Zoo, a group of cotton-top tamarins — cute, social, squirrel-sized monkeys — has been caught whispering in the presence of zoo staff they do not like.
According to a new study published in the journal Zoo Biology, researchers have discovered in these tamarins the first example of whispering by nonhuman primates. While investigating the monkeys’ human-directed mobbing calls, whereby the tamarins attempt to confuse would-be predators with loud cries, researchers noticed that the monkeys actually lowered the amplitude of their vocalizations in the presence of one particular zookeeper.
Turns out the zookeeper had been involved in the tamarins’ capture and had also taken part in medical procedures involving the animals. And while the researchers weren’t able to explain just exactly what the monkeys were communicating under their breath in the staffer’s presence, it’s worth noting that every revolution begins with conspiratorial whispers.