The communicative exchanges in bonobos and chimpanzees closely resemble human communication -- which is one of the most sophisticated signaling systems in the animal kingdom -- being highly cooperative and including fast interactions.
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The team of Marlen Froehlich and Simone Pika from Germany's Max Planck Institute conducted the first systematic comparison of communicative interactions in mother-infant group of two different bonobo and two different chimpanzee communities in their natural environments.
The study showed that communicative exchanges in both species resemble cooperative turn-taking sequences in human conversation. However, bonobos and chimpanzees differ in their communication styles.
"For bonobos, gaze plays a more important role and they seem to anticipate signals before they have been fully articulated," said Marlen Froehlich in the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
In contrast, chimpanzees engage in more time-consuming communicative negotiations and use clearly recognizable units such as signal, pause and response.
Bonobos may, therefore, represent the most representative model for understanding the prerequisites of human communication.
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"Communicative interactions of great apes thus show the hallmarks of human social action during conversation and suggest that cooperative communication arose as a way of coordinating collaborative activities more efficiently," noted lead researcher Simone Pika.