Sunday, April 14, 2024

New research reveals that big apes like to playfully joke around with each other, much like how people do

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Scientists found that great apes, like orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas, engage in playful teasing similar to humans. This teasing behavior, characterized by being provocative, persistent, and including elements of surprise and play, was observed in all four great ape species. The researchers suggest that the roots of humor in humans may have evolved at least 13 million years ago.

The team had a theory that since human babies start teasing others as early as eight months old, even before they can speak, similar behavior could be seen in non-human animals. When babies tease, they often repeat provocations involving surprises, like offering and taking away objects or disrupting others’ activities.

The monkeys do things they’re not supposed to, like trying to touch a hot stove. A researcher named Isabelle Laumer studied this at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior. To see if apes act the same, they watched videos of apes at zoos in Germany and the US. They looked at how the apes moved and their expressions, and if there was a reaction from others.

The researchers found that all types of apes intentionally did things to provoke others, like teasing during playtime.

The research talks about 18 different ways animals playfully bother each other, like poking, hitting, and pulling hair. They found that these behaviors are used to get attention or see how the other animal reacts. The teasing is more about watching the other animal’s response and not really trying to be mean. Even though they might annoy each other, the teased animal usually doesn’t get mad. This study is the first to really look into this playful teasing among animals. Now, the researchers want to understand why animals do this, similar to how humans use teasing to test boundaries and build relationships. They also wonder if other animals, like birds, might have similar behaviors.

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