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Watch the first orangutan taught to mimic human conversation

Rocky, a friendly ape, might be the key to how we humans found our voices. He also really likes treats.

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Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Rocky loves to offer his greetings and salutations to humans who always seem thrilled to hear them and are ready with a reward. The orangutan lives at the Indianapolis Zoo and appears to be the first to be able to emulate human speech.

Watch the video of Rocky below and it's clear from his monosyllabic greetings he's not going to be pontificating about the dangers of Pokemon Go anytime soon. But he is able to produce word-like sounds unlike typical Orangutan sounds in a conversational context.

This is actually a big deal, because it means apes could have the ability to control their voices rather than just issue grunts that have been presumed to be relatively meaningless sounds brought on by instinct or response to some sort of stimuli.

"This indicates that the voice control shown by humans could derive from an evolutionary ancestor with similar voice control capacities as those found in orangutans and in all great apes more generally," anthropologist Adriano Lameria from the UK's University of Durham and the lead researcher studying Rocky, explained to New Scientist.

Hidden in Rocky's friendly grunts could be the missing link in the story of the development of human language. Maybe, just maybe, it explains how we evolved from speechless hominids to eloquent masters of language and recently backslid developed into the first species to communicate via an even more efficient means: our ever-expanding library of emojis.