Tickled chimps, orangutans show signs of human-like mirth, researchers say
THURSDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Apes may not be ready for the cast of Saturday Night Live, but they sure love a good giggle, new research suggests.
Led by Marina Davila Ross, a primatologist at the University of Portsmouth in England, the research team tickled 22 young apes and three human babies to see how they would respond. While none of the apes would make it onto a sitcom laugh track, the vocalizations were comparable to how humans respond to similar stimulus.
The study is the first to record laugh-like behavior in apes, although there has been anecdotal evidence of such behavior in the wild, said Michael J. Owren, a team member and associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State University, in Atlanta.
The laughter "seemed like an expression of joy," said Davila Ross, a research fellow in the department of psychology. "It seemed to me that the subjects enjoyed the attention and the positive interaction with their caretakers, and did not show much attempt to leave when the tickling session was over."
The researchers, using more than 800 acoustic recordings, compared the laughter sounds of all four great ape species -- chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans -- and acoustically analyzed and compared them to human laughter. Despite clear differences between ape and human laughter, the results showed that laughter is not a uniquely human trait, the scientists said.
The team then examined the sounds "phylogenetically" -- that is, how they corresponded to well-established evolutionary similarities and differences between the different apes species and humans. The research provided strong evidence that laughter in great apes and humans has its origins with mankind's evolutionary ancestors.
In fact, the researchers point to the origin of laughter in a common primate ancestor
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