Apes are not ‘apeing’ around

Youngsters at Manor Infant School and Nursery celebrate with headteacher Ashley Howard, centre. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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JUST like human beings, chimpanzees mimic the laughter of their playmates even if they don’t find the situation as ‘funny’.

New research from the University of Portsmouth has produced the first evidence that apes do not just ‘ape’ the expressions of their social partners – but that their responses have a distinct emotional meaning.

The research shows great apes have a more complex social use of expressions than previously thought.

Behavioural biologist Dr Marina Davila-Ross said: ‘I didn’t expect to find such prominent differences between responsive and spontaneous laughter in chimpanzees. But my biggest surprise was the results showing that those in newer groups mimic their playmates more often than those in established groups where the chimpanzees know each other well.

‘This suggests mimicking laughter might play a special role in strengthening social bonds.’