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From pointing to animated arm movements and nodding, people regularly employ gestures to accompany and create language.
Now, it’s been suggested that humans can also understand sign language used by apes, meaning humans may retain an understanding of ape communication from their ancestors.
Great apes deploy more than 80 signals to communicate everyday goals, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Biology.
These gestures include the “big loud scratch,” which means “groom me” — apes do this to remove insects or dirt from each other’s hair. “Object shake” can mean “let’s have sex,” “groom me” or “move away.” The “directed push” means “climb on my back” for bonobos or “move to a new position” for chimpanzees.
Chimpanzees and bonobos, which share more than 90% of their gestures, are humans’ closest living relatives, the study said. Their gestures have been suggested to be an important framework in the evolution of human language, according to study authors Kirsty E. Graham, a research fellow at the University of St. Andrews’ School of Psychology and Neuroscience in Scotland, and primatologist Catherine Hobaiter, a principal investigator at the university’s Wild Minds Lab.
Infants ages 1 to 2 have been found to use more than 50 gestures from the ape repertoire, researchers said. It was therefore thought that humans may have retained their understanding of core features of ape gestures.
Researchers used data from 5,656 participants who watched 20 online videos that were clipped to …….