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Monday, June 8, 2009

Do Baby Apes Giggle Like Human Infants Do?

Apparently so, according to a new study that analyzed the "tickle-induced vocalizations" of human infants and young apes.
According to the researchers, infant and juvenile orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos "laugh" when they're tickled, even though it sounds acoustically different from human laughter. (We do laugh most like chimps and bonobos, however, which are genetically closest to us). The study shows "the evolutionary continuity of a human emotional expression," says Marina Davila Ross, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth who worked on the research.
"The results suggest that the evolutionary origins of human laughter can be traced back at least 10 to 16 million years to the last common ancestor of humans and modern great apes," the researchers write in the journal Current Biology.
There is "clear evidence of a common evolutionary origin for tickling-induced laughter in humans and tickling-induced vocalizations in great apes," they report. "At a minimum, one can conclude that it is appropriate to consider 'laughter' to be a cross-species phenomenon." —Heather Wax