Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis
Chimpanzees have now been found to be able to gesticulate as a form of communication. Research on a captive population at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute in Japan showed that chimpanzees were able to effectively communicate an object they desired, such as piece of food, as well as express how near or far the object was from themselves. Unlike humans, the chimpanzees signaled distance using longitudinal height rather than reaching out to indicate that something was farther away. “When the chimp study subjects tried to communicate with a human partner about food that was placed far away, they held their hands up higher off the ground. Food that was close by was metaphorically lower. They also seemed to hold their mouths open wider to indicate distance, but that association wasn’t quite statistically significant.” Interestingly, there does not seem to be evidence of chimps pointing in the wild rather they use other gestures related to grooming behaviors. It also good to keep in mind that many captive animals, whether for entertainment or research, are trained to replicate certain behaviors rather than actually enacting them autonomously.