Reading aloud Clapping means joy and excitement. Waving your arm means "come here". And rowing with your arms means "leave me alone". - When observing wild chimpanzees in Uganda, Scottish researchers have noticed several gestures with which apes communicate with each other. Of the more than 30 newly discovered gestures, about one third resembles gestures used by humans. In evolutionary research, it helps to discover and investigate differences in behavior between humans and other primates, especially if you want to know more about the evolution of the language. "We know that these gestures must have been in the repertoire of our common ancestor, and that perhaps they were the beginning of the language evolution, " explains Anna Roberts, principal author of the study. "Manual gestures in chimpanzees are controlled by the same brain structures as speech in the human brain."

The researcher and her colleagues from the Scottish University of Stirling have found that chimpanzees not only communicate with the help of gestures, but also that they can find out what their conspecific means. The apes pay attention to both gestures and the concomitant context. For example, a male chimpanzee uses a hand movement that researchers associate with the intention of breeding. Does the male gesticulate to a female, can this be an invitation to sexual intercourse? for other males, the same gesture means that they should stay away or that they should not have sex with other females. This multiple use of the same hand movement means that the chimpanzees must always consider the context as well.

While many animals communicate using sounds, movements, and facial expressions, only primates use hand gestures. "Not only do chimpanzees use gestures similar to ours, but they do so in a similar way to how people talk and gesticulate, " says Anna Roberts.

The ability to cooperate and learn from each other has paved the way for language evolution. If chimpanzees learn from others the exact execution of a gesture, does that mean that our closest living relatives have the basic cognitive skills needed to develop the language? says Roberts. display

Anna Roberts (University of Stirling) et al .: Animal Behavior, doi: 10.1016 / j.anbehav.2012.05.022 © Sabine Short


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