Chimpanzees in Zoos Have No Musical Taste, Researchers Show

Bonobo apes, primates unique to Congo and humankind's closest relative, grooming one another at a sanctuary just outside the capital Kinshasa, Congo on October 31, 2006. A new study claimed some great apes kept in zoos don't have any emotional reaction to a variety of musical genres. Reuters

Decades of research on chimpanzees, man's closest relative, has found they are selfless, public-spirited and form trusting bonds with their closest friends. But when it comes to their taste in music, chimps may have no preference between Beethoven's classical stylings or Justin Bieber's blend of pop and EDM.

Related: Chimpanzees form trusting friendships, not unlike humans

Most international zoos play tunes for their captive animals, but chimpanzees showed no emotional response—neither positive nor adversarial—to a range of musical genres, according to a recent study conducted by the University of York's Department of Psychology at the RZSS Edinburgh Zoo.

Experts said that while the music may benefit the human zookeepers, their animal counterparts remain simply indifferent to whatever melodies are streaming across the airwaves.

Researchers built a "chimpanzee jukebox" that allowed the zoo animals to select what music would play in their chimpanzee care center, featuring Adele, Bieber, Beethoven and Mozart.

After becoming familiar with the new contraption in their exhibit, the chimpanzees indicated no preference to particular genres of music, or even to having music played at all. The animals appeared just as indifferent during Adele's heartbreaking, star-crossed love songs as when the Biebs's infectious dance hits were chosen by the group of great apes.

The study, published in the research journal PLOS One, indicates "the possibility that music appreciation is something that is a uniquely human trait," the researchers said in a statement.

"These results suggest that music is not something that is relevant to captive chimpanzees and are supported by recent work with zoo-housed orangutans that were unable to distinguish music from digitally scrambled noise," University of York's Dr. Emma K Wallace said. "However, whilst music does not appear to have a positive effect on captive chimpanzee welfare, it equally did not have any negative effects."

So, while zookeepers can certainly continue listening to whatever music they prefer, they shouldn't expect chimpanzees to join in on a dance party or start shedding a tear to a hit single.