NOV 15, 2017 10:52 AM PST

Chimps Use Hand Gestures to Convey Distance Too

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

If you were to ask another person for directions, you’d most likely get a verbal response augmented with complimentary hand gestures. Such gesticulations might include pointing a specific way or delivering hand signals to indicate distances or quandaries along the way.

Researchers have long thought that understanding and conveying distance to others requires above-average intelligence that only humans possess. On the other hand, it might be more prevalent in the animal kingdom than initially imagined.

Chimpanzees both understand and know how to convey distance, a new study has found.

Image Credit: CC0 Public Domain via Phys.org

A new study published in the journal Biology Letters this week by Kyoto University researchers highlights that chimpanzees can express distance and direction to others (in their own unique way, of course).

Related: Chimpanzee mother video-taped while teaching offspring to use tools

While humans might raise an index finger to point in a particular direction or depict distance, chimps instead raise their arms and open their mouths to a certain degree to convey distance to one another.

These distinct gestures became particularly evident inside the lab, where researchers filmed eight chimps' reactions with surveillance cameras after slicing bananas into bits and placing them outside of the ape enclosure at various distances.

The researchers entered and left the room repeatedly, teasing the apes with the foodstuffs from different distances before finally feeding them. The cameras recorded every move the apes made throughout the experimentation.

Immediately following the experiment, the researchers analyzed the camera footage carefully. All the chimps displayed body language consistent with wanting the food, but another detail caught their attention.

The further away the researcher was while taunting the food, the higher the apes would raise their arms and the wider they'd open their mouths. Notably, the apes didn't perform the gestures without a researcher present. That said, it appeared to be a clear sign a communication linked to the distance, almost as if the apes wanted us to know the banana bits were too far away – and by how much.

While chimpanzees' choice of gestures might seem odd to us at first glance, our methods of conveying direction and distance could be just as weird to chimps. Some captive chimps that spend a lot of time around humans will point as we do, but wild chimps seem to communicate differently, like those observed in this Kyoto University experiment.

Related: Are chimpanzees really as strong as they're made out to be?

Researchers are only just beginning to scratch the surface of how chimpanzees communicate with one another, but more research could further our understanding of their body language.

Source: Popular Science, Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 07, 2020
Neuroscience
Researchers Identify 5 Kinds of Cat Owners
SEP 07, 2020
Researchers Identify 5 Kinds of Cat Owners
Conservationists have long been concerned about the number of animals caught by domestic cats. In the US alone, estimate ...
OCT 09, 2020
Plants & Animals
Humpback Whales Thriving in NYC Waters
OCT 09, 2020
Humpback Whales Thriving in NYC Waters
Over the past decade, humpback whales have become increasingly common in waters known as the New York-New Jersey Bight. ...
NOV 07, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Is Monarch wing size influenced by the environment?
NOV 07, 2020
Is Monarch wing size influenced by the environment?
Monarchs are shifting their migration patterns to live year-round in locations where the plants they need are always ava ...
NOV 17, 2020
Plants & Animals
Taking a Virtual Walk in a Forest Altered by Climate Change
NOV 17, 2020
Taking a Virtual Walk in a Forest Altered by Climate Change
For some people, it's easier to grasp the magnitude of a problem once it can be visualized.
NOV 23, 2020
Plants & Animals
Can Kelp Help Reduce Acidification in the Ocean?
NOV 23, 2020
Can Kelp Help Reduce Acidification in the Ocean?
Our oceans are becoming more acidic; their pH is going down as they absorb CO2 from Earth's atmosphere. It's thought tha ...
NOV 24, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Cracking the Code of a Locust Swarm
NOV 24, 2020
Cracking the Code of a Locust Swarm
With a reputation for destruction that goes back to ancient Egypt, locust swarms are once again a major problem for some ...
Loading Comments...