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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Dr Esther Clarke

Honorary Fellow in the Department of Anthropology

Contact Dr Esther Clarke


I gained my PhD from the Centre for Social Learning and Cultural Evolution at St Andrews University where I studied wild white-handed gibbons in Thailand. In particular I focused on their anti-predatory behaviour and vocalisations and used the comparative approach to describe my findings in relation to the evolution of primate vocal communication in general, including human language.

Now I am studying captive gibbon vocalisations and reproductive endocrinology and examining the role of the endocrine system on the primate vocal apparatus.


BBC Radio 4's Today Programe, 8th April 2015; "Gibbon calls could shed light on human speech":

Research Interests

  • Primate behaviour
  • Primate endocrinology
  • Primate vocal communication
  • The evolution of primate cognition


Journal Article

Conference Paper

  • Clarke, E., Zuberbühler, K. & Reichard, U. H. (2014), Vocal communication in gibbons, in Cartmill, E. A., Roberts, S., Lyn, H. & Cornish, H. eds, 10th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EVOLANG10). Vienna, Austria, World Scientific Publishing, Hackensack, NJ, 413-414.

International Collaboration

  • Dr Michael Coen, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Dr Michael Heistermann, German Primate Center

Selected Grants

  • 2014: Primate Vocalisations as Sexual Signals: Examining the Role of Reproductive Hormones on the Acoustic Structure of Female Song in Zoo Gibbons (£10636.00 from The Royal Society)
  • 2012: Primate Society of Great Britain Research Grant