Bonobo and chimpanzee gestures share many meanings

February 27, 2018

If a bonobo and a chimpanzee were to meet face to face, they could probably understand each other's gestures. In an article publishing 27 February in the open access journal PLOS Biology, researchers from the Universities of St Andrews, York, and Kyoto have found that many of the gestures used by bonobos and chimpanzees share the same meanings.

The two great ape species are closely related, having separated about 1-2 million years ago, and we already know that they share many of the same gestures, but the degree of similarity between the meanings of the chimpanzee and bonobo gestures is a new discovery.

In the new study the researchers first define 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. If, for example, the first bonobo presents an arm in front of a second bonobo (video for "present (climb on)" at https://vimeo.com/214146154; videos for all gestures at http://greatapedictionary.ac.uk/video-resources/gesture-videos/), the second bonobo responds by climbing onto the first bonobo's back and the first bonobo then stops gesturing, the researchers infer that the first bonobo was satisfied, and therefore that the meaning of that single gesture is "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.

"The overlap in gesture meanings between bonobos and chimpanzees is quite substantial and may indicate that the gestures are biologically inherited", says lead author Kirsty Graham from the University of York. "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, so watch this space."
-end-
In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Biology: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2004825

Citation: Graham KE, Hobaiter C, Ounsley J, Furuichi T, Byrne RW (2018) Bonobo and chimpanzee gestures overlap extensively in meaning. PLoS Biol 16(2): e2004825. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2004825

Funding: JSPS Core-to-Core Program http://www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-core_to_core/ (grant number 2012-2014, 2015-2017). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Grant in Aid for Scientific Research (grant number 25304019, 25257407, 26257408). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. University of St Andrews https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/ug/fees-and-funding/scholarships/600th-wardlaw/ (grant number 600th Anniversary Scholarship). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Wenner-Gren Foundation http://www.wennergren.org/ (grant number Gr. 8950). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

PLOS

Related Chimpanzees Articles from Brightsurf:

Like humans, aging wild chimpanzees value their more "positive" friendships most
Like humans, wild chimpanzees focus on fewer yet more meaningful friendships as they grow older, say researchers who studied male chimps over two decades.

Like humans, chimpanzees can suffer for life if orphaned before adulthood
A new study from the Tai Chimpanzee Project in Ivory Coast and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, shows that orphaned male chimpanzees are less competitive and have fewer offspring of their own than those who continue to live with their mothers.

For chimpanzees, salt and pepper hair not a marker of old age
Silver strands and graying hair is a sign of aging in humans, but things aren't so simple for our closest ape relatives--the chimpanzee.

In the wild, chimpanzees are more motivated to cooperate than bonobos
Scientists investigated cooperation dynamics in wild chimpanzees (Tai, Ivory Coast) and bonobos (LuiKotale, DCR) using a snake model.

A rare heart bone is discovered in chimpanzees
Experts from the University of Nottingham have discovered that some chimpanzees have a bone in their heart, which could be vital in managing their health and conservation.

In chimpanzees, females contribute to the protection of the territory
Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, extensively studied several neighboring groups of western chimpanzees and their findings reveal that females and even the entire group may play a more important role in between-group competition than previously thought.

Cultural diversity in chimpanzees
Termite fishing by chimpanzees was thought to occur in only two forms with one or multiple tools, from either above-ground or underground termite nests.

Similar to humans, chimpanzees develop slowly
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have systematically investigated developmental milestones in wild chimpanzees of the Taï National Park (Ivory Coast) and found that they develop slowly, requiring more than five years to reach key motor, communication and social milestones.

The genome of chimpanzees and gorillas could help to better understand human tumors
A new study by researchers from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint center of UPF and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), shows that, surprisingly, the distribution of mutations in human tumors is more similar to that of chimpanzees and gorillas than that of humans.

Crops provide chimpanzees with more energy than wild foods
A University of Kent study has found that cultivated foods offer chimpanzees in West Africa more energetic benefits than wild foods available in the region.

Read More: Chimpanzees News and Chimpanzees Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.