While humans communicate with one another using spoken words, many animals signal to one another with physical gestures. Bonobos and chimpanzees are two examples of the latter, and while they’re entirely different primate species, it turns out that they share similar gestures.
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Researchers from the Universities of St Andrews, York, and Kyoto stumbled upon these findings after studying 33 different gestures made by bonobos. During their analysis, the researchers compared these gestures and their meanings to those produced by chimpanzees, and they found several consistencies. The results are now published in the journal PLOS Biology.
In one example, the researchers took note as a bonobo reached its arm out to another. The one that was getting signaled then jumped on the back of the gesture-maker, and both appeared satisfied with the result. That said, the researchers can conclude that the gesture means “climb on me.” Notably, that’s the same thing chimpanzees do.
“The overlap in gesture meanings between bonobos and chimpanzees is quite substantial and may indicate that the gestures are biologically inherited,” said study lead author Dr. Kirsty Graham from the University of York’s Department of Psychology.
While interesting, no one should too be surprised to hear of said similarities. Bonobos and chimpanzees share common ancestry, and the researchers doubt it’s merely a coincidence. Instead, the researchers suggest that it could have something to do with shared genetics between the two closely-related primate species.
The study answers a lot of questions concerning primate communication, but it also raises several others that the researchers hope to answer in upcoming studies.
“In the future, we hope to learn more about how gestures develop through the apes’ lifetimes,” Graham continued. “We are also starting to examine whether humans share any of these great ape gestures and understand the gesture meanings.”
It should be interesting to see if any other primate species’ gestures overlap with bonobos’ and chimpanzees.’ Furthermore, it could also be interesting to see how they compare to human-made gestures and whether we communicate in the same ways or not.
Source: University of York