London, Nov 20 : Women might be tired of carrying the load of being stereotyped as the talkative sex, but according to a group of researchers, the label might indeed be true - at least in the case of female-centric monkey groups.
The research team at Roehampton University in London, who observed a female-centric group of macaques, noticed that the gossipy nature of the monkeys might add weight to the theory that human language evolved to forge social bonds.
A large number of scientists reckon that language replaced grooming as a less time-consuming way of preserving close bonds in ever-growing societies.
Researchers Nathalie Greeno and Stuart Semple hypothesised that if this was true then in species of animals with large social networks, such as macaques, vocal exchanges should be just as important as grooming.
The scientists listened to a group of 16 female and eight male macaques, the most widespread primate genus apart from humans, living on Cayo Santiago island off Puerto Rico for three months.
They counted the grunts, coos and girneys - friendly chit-chat between two individuals - while ignoring calls specifically used when in the presence of food or a predator.
Female macaques were found to make 13 times as many friendly noises as males. They were also more likely to chat to other females than males.
"The results suggest that females rely on vocal communication more than males due to their need to maintain the larger social networks," New Scientist quoted Greeno, as saying.
The study has been published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.
The scientists believe this is because female macaques form solid, long-lasting bonds. They stay in the same group for life, and rely on their female friends to help them look after offspring.
In contrast males - who rove between groups throughout their life - chatted to both sexes equally.