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3400 Apencommunicatie


A male chimpanzee may beg for food from another chimpanzee by gesturing with an extended arm and open hand.

But the same gesture might also be used to ask a female chimpanzee for sex, or between two males as a sign of reconciliation after a fight, said primatologist Frans de Waal, a member of the research team.

"Typically they may use it for food... but they may use the same gesture for something totally different; so, for instance, a male may invite a female for sex by holding out an open hand to her," Dr de Waal said.

This ability to learn gestures distinguishes apes from monkeys and most other species on the planet, the scientist says.

Although all primates use vocal and facial expressions to communicate, only the great apes - chimpanzees, bonobos, orang-utan and gorillas - use gestures as well, an ability they share with humans.

And when apes gesture, they use their right hand, which is controlled by the left side of the brain - the same side as the language control centre in the human brain.

[BBC 06.05.07