Apes and human babies show similar modes of communication

A new study, conducted by a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), may help shed light on how language evolved over the time. Their study found a huge similarity in the communication gestures of toddlers and chimps.

The team of researchers started by analyzing a year's worth of video footage of a female bonobo (named Panbanisha), a young girl, and a female chimpanzee (by the name Panpanzee). A close look was enough to confirm the fact - there was actually a quite noticeable similarity between the communication gestures used by all of them, which is much more than was initially believed.

All of them - the bonobo, the chimp and the young girl, made similar gestures, such as pointing fingers on the head, raising arms to be picked up etc.

"The similarity in the form and function of the gestures in a human infant, a baby chimpanzee and a baby bonobo was remarkable," professor of psychology at UCLA, Patricia Greenfield, said.

Also, in the initial stages, all of them stuck to hand gestures; but as time passed, they increased their symbol production as a means of communication. "Lexigrams were learned, as human language is, during meaningful social interactions, not from behavioural training," lead author of the study, Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, explained when the study further revealed that the apes used visual symbols and gestures, known as lexigrams, as a mode of communication.

"This finding suggests that the ability to combine gesture and vocalisation may have been important for the evolution of language," Greenfield added.

Published in an open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, this study claims that this use of hand gestures as a mode of communication, may be an additional evidence of how humans may have descended from apes, and how humans may have inherited this from their last ancestors.

In the year 1872, Charles Darwin seems to have made a similar comment, when he claimed that there were some basic gestures and facial expressions that were common worldwide. Looks like he was right after all. 

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