A New Study On Great Apes Shows That They Love To Tease Relatives, Suggesting We Get Our Knack For Being Annoying From A Shared Ancestral Link That’s 13 Million Years Old

LifeGemz - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual orangutans

As kids, we mastered the art of teasing and bothering our siblings throughout childhood. But, according to a new study, this habit might have a much longer history than we previously thought.

Researchers observing four species of primates found that young apes are just as skilled at pestering as humans, indicating that our knack for being annoying is a trait shared with our nearest relatives.

In a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers proposed that this behavior demonstrates an intricate grasp of emotions and social conventions. They also believe it laid the groundwork for the development of humor as we recognize it today.

“The precursors of joking were there in the last common ancestor 13 million years ago,” said Erica Cartmill, the study’s co-author.

To gain a deeper understanding of the role of playful teasing in social interactions, the research team scrutinized 75 hours of video recordings from great ape enclosures at the San Diego Zoo and Leipzig Zoo. In their study, they documented 142 distinct instances of teasing observed across nine bonobos, four orangutans, four gorillas, and 17 chimpanzees.

Then, the scientists identified 18 specific types of playful mischief. These included hiding, body slamming, obstructing activity, hitting, impeding movement, striking with an object, and offering and retracting a body part.

Additionally, presenting and withdrawing an object or body part, poking, prodding with an object, tugging on a body part, pulling hair, stealing, swinging an object, tickling, engaging in tug of war, and encroaching on personal space.

Now, this list might just remind you of a typical day at home with your little ones. If so, there’s likely an evolutionary explanation for it. The team pointed out the striking resemblance of these actions to human behavior.

“What’s interesting is we found similarities with human infant teasing. When human infants tease their mother, they tend to look at their mother’s face for a reaction. We see that in these great apes, too,” explained Isabelle Laumer, the study’s lead author.

LifeGemz – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual orangutans

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