April 17, 2006 5:23 pm

Fact Of The Day

:note: KMFDM – “Light”

Today I learned something interesting. But first, some background:

Apes (which, mind you, are different creatures than monkeys) have their swallowing-mechanism throat parts up near the very top of their throat. Like so:

apethroat

(I never claimed to be good at drawing ape profiles.) Humans, however, have their throaty parts located far lower, like so:

personthroat

Apparently, the fact that apes have their throat parts located much higher than grown humans do limits the range of vocalizations that can be made. This is why apes can be taught sign language, but not our spoken language. They are mentally capable (to some degree), but they simply, structurally, cannot make the sounds required for our spoken language.

Interestingly, and this is what I learned today, human babies also have their throat parts situated very high, which is what enables them to breathe and eat at the same time. I thought about it for a minute, and it makes so much sense! You always see babies peacefully nursing or sipping a bottle, but they don’t seem to stop to breathe! I never really noticed it before. Apparently, this ability goes away at about 18 months, give or take a few months. As we grow, the throat parts move downward to the lower position. As a result, we have a much wider vocal range but are far more at risk of choking.

Unrelated: This is my 500th post. Yay for me! I have to go to class now instead of doing something cool, so let’s all hope I don’t embarrass myself with my poor file structure and file naming conventions.

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