Great apes use cooperative, turn-taking gestures as a communicative strategy, a new study found.

Communication among humans is considered one of the most sophisticated signaling systems as it entails rapid interactions and cooperative features. Even as early as infancy, babies are already able to practice turn-taking interaction to communicate. This suggests that the basic foundation of human conversation lies solely in gestures.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology discovered that humans' closest relatives – great apes – also practice the same cooperative communication humans use.

Looking At The Similarities

To investigate, the team performed the first systematic and comparative study that looked into the interactions of mother-infant pairs of two different bonobo and chimpanzee groups in their natural habitats for two years.

Findings showed that both species resemble the cooperative communication humans practice. However, bonobos and chimpanzees exhibited different styles of communication.

"For bonobos, gaze plays a more important role and they seem to anticipate signals before they have been fully articulated," says study first author Marlen Fröhlich.

Chimpanzees, on the other hand, practice more complex types of interactions and negotiations. They also use apparently discernible practices such as signals and pauses.

Such results may therefore give the most fitting model for comprehending the requirements of human communication.

Study head Simone Pika says communication among great apes therefore represents the trademark of human interaction during conversations, proposing that cooperative communication emerged as a means of facilitating collaborative activities in a more efficient manner.

This is not the first time great apes and humans were found to have striking similarities. In a recent study that observed homosexual behaviors of gorillas, authors noted that their work may have significant implications on humans as both species have long been recorded to have the ability to change sex from heterosexual to homosexual.

The study on great apes' cooperative communication was published in the journal Scientific Reports on May 23.

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