Our group has been studying great ape communication for over 20-years and across chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orang-utans; but it’s the first time that we’re getting human great apes in on the picture! (As you might be able to tell we’re •really• excited!)
Using our long-term studies we have been able to show that many of the gesture types that great apes use to communicate with other apes are shared across the species – in chimpanzees and bonobos it’s almost 100% – but it’s been tough to work out how humans fit into the picture. Humans use gestures – as well as language, sounds, facial expressions, body postures, and more – to communicate. But if we wanted to communicate the sort of requests that great apes use their gestures for: come here! I want that! come with me! or even go away! we use language. So we’re trying a little cross-species communication… If many great ape gestures, and perhaps the gesture meanings, are shared across all the other apes that suggests that they may have a very old evolutionary origin. So it’s possible that while modern humans use language to communicate the same requests we might still be able to recognise the gestures and what they mean in other apes.
If you’re keen to find out more and possibly help us out then check out our experiment page!