Iconic gesturing in bonobos
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We comment on a recent behavioral study in which we describe a human-like beckoning gesture in 2 groups of bonobos, used in combination with sexual solicitation postures. The beckoning gesture fulfils key criteria of deixis and iconicity, in that it communicates to a distant recipient the desired travel path in relation to a specific social intention, i.e., to have sex at another location. We discuss this finding in light of the fact that, despite the documented great ape capacity and obvious communicative advantage, referential gestures are still surprisingly rare in their natural communication. We address several possibilities for this peculiar underuse and are most compelled by the notion that non-human primates are generally not very motivated to share their experiences of external objects or events with others, which removes most reasons for referential signaling.
Genty , E & Zuberbühler , K 2015 , ' Iconic gesturing in bonobos ' Communicative and Integrative Biology , vol 8 , no. 1 , e992742 . DOI: 10.4161/19420889.2014.992742
Communicative and Integrative Biology
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This project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development, and demonstration under grant agreement 283871.