Nav: Home

Bonobo and chimpanzee gestures share multiple meanings

February 27, 2018

Two closely related great ape species, the bonobo and chimpanzee, use gestures that share the same meaning researchers have found.

Chimpanzees and bonobos use gestures in a variety of different situations and for multiple purposes, such as to initiate and change positions during grooming.

The two species separated approximately 1-2 million years ago, and although it is already known that they share many of the same gestures, the degree of similarity between the meanings of the chimpanzee and bonobo gestures is a new discovery.

Published in PLOS Biology, researchers from the Universities of York, St Andrews, and Kyoto first defined the meaning of each bonobo gesture by looking at the reaction that it elicits and whether the bonobo who gestured was "satisfied" with the reaction.

Dr Kirsty Graham, Research Associate at the University of York's Department of Psychology, said: "The overlap in gesture meanings between bonobos and chimpanzees is quite substantial and may indicate that the gestures are biologically inherited."

The team observed various behaviors such as a bonobo presenting its arm in front of a second bonobo; the second bonobo would respond by climbing onto the first bonobo's back. The first bonobo then stops gesturing, suggesting the reaction from the second bonobo was the correct one.

From this the researchers were able to infer that this single gesture meant "climb on me."

Taken over many observations, the researchers were able to systematically define the sets of meanings of 33 bonobo gesture types and compare them to gesture meanings already known for chimpanzees.

It appears that many gesture meanings are shared by both species, and perhaps may have also been shared by our last common ancestor.

Dr Graham said: "In future, we hope to learn more about how gestures develop through the apes' lifetimes. We are also starting to examine whether humans share any of these great ape gestures and understand the gesture meanings."
-end-
To see video clips of chimpanzee and bonobo gestures visit The Great Ape Dictionary website.

University of York

Related Chimpanzee Articles:

Chimpanzee 'super strength' and what it might mean in human muscle evolution
For years, anecdotes and some studies have suggested that chimpanzees are 'super strong' compared to humans, implying that their muscle fibers are superior to humans'.
Study: Bonobos may be better representation of last common ancestor with humans
A new study examining the muscular system of bonobos provides firsthand evidence that the rare great ape species may be more closely linked, anatomically, to human ancestors than common chimpanzees.
From Beethoven to Bieber, why playing music to chimps is falling on deaf ears
Playing music to captive chimpanzees has no positive effect on their welfare, researchers have concluded.
Yale-led study: Wild chimpanzees have surprisingly long life spans
A 20-year demographic study of a large chimpanzee community in Uganda's Kibale National Park has revealed that, under the right ecological conditions, our close primate relatives can lead surprisingly long lives in the wild.
Researchers document second case of 'Down syndrome' in chimps
Japanese researchers have confirmed the second case known to science of a chimpanzee born with trisomy 22, a chromosomal defect similar to that of Down syndrome (or trisomy 21) in humans.
More Chimpanzee News and Chimpanzee Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...