Navigation auf

Department of Evolutionary Anthropology

Simon Townsend

Simon Townsend, Prof. Dr.

  • Professor
  • Comparative Communication and Cognition Group
+41 44 635 54 10
Room number
Y42 K-54


I am interested in the complexity underlying vocal communication and cognition in animals. By taking a broad comparative approach focusing on both primate, non-primate mammals and birds in the wild and captivity, we aim to unpack the similarities and differences between animal and human communication and ultimately what selective conditions might have been responsible for the evolution of the human language faculty.

Research Themes

Comparative psychology, comparative linguistics, language evolution, syntax, phonology, semantics, animal behaviour, animal cognition, primates, non-primate mammals and birds.

Relevant Publications

  • Leroux, M., Schel, A. M., Wilke, C., Chandia, B., Zuberbühler, K., Slocombe, K. E., & Townsend, S. W. (2023). Call combinations and compositional processing in wild chimpanzees. Nature Communications, 14(1), 2225.
  • Wilke, C., Lahiff, N. J., Sabbi, K. H., Watts, D. P., Townsend, S. W., & Slocombe, K. E. (2022). Declarative referential gesturing in a wild chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(47), e2206486119.
  • Jorgewich-Cohen, G., Townsend, S. W., Padovese, L. R., Klein, N., Praschag, P., Ferrara, C. R., ... & Sánchez-Villagra, M. R. (2022). Common evolutionary origin of acoustic communication in choanate vertebrates. Nature Communications, 13(1), 6089.
  • Mine, J. G., Slocombe, K. E., Willems, E. P., Gilby, I. C., Yu, M., Thompson, M. E., Townsend, S.W. & Machanda, Z. P. (2022).Vocal signals facilitate cooperative hunting in wild chimpanzees. Science advances, 8(30), eabo5553.
  • Collier, K., Radford, A. N., Stoll, S., Watson, S. K., Manser, M. B., Bickel, B. & Townsend, S. W. (2020). Dwarf mongoose alarm calls: investigating a complex non-human animal call. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 287(1935), 20192514.
  • Townsend, S.W., Engesser, S., Stoll, S., Zuberbühler, K. & Bickel, B. (2018). Compositionality in animals and humans. PLoS Biology 16(8):e2006425.