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Scientists translate 66 chimpanzee gestures

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Studying footage of chimpanzees from Uganda between 2007 and 2009, scientists have arrived at translations for 66 gestures used between the apes as means of communication.

Previous research had revealed that the animals use gestures to communicate.

The authors from the University of St Andrews in Scotland said the messages ranged from “simple requests associated with just a few gestures to broader social negotiation associated with a wider range of gesture types.”

According to the findings, some of the gestures were used to convey only one meaning, whereas others were more ambiguous and could have several meanings.

The study found the difference between the functions served by gestures and voices, noting that despite the application of oral messages among apes and monkeys, it did not appear that voices were used intentionally to communicate messages.

This is the crucial difference between calls and gestures, said lead researcher Catherine Hobaiter, since chimps use gestures as a communication system to convey messages to others.

“That’s what’s so amazing about chimp gestures,” said Hobaiter. “They’re the only thing that looks like human language in that respect.”

Her colleague Richard Byrne said, “What we’ve shown is a very rich system of many different meanings.” “We have the closest thing to human language that you can see in nature.”


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