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      Pointing and pantomime in wild apes? Female bonobos use referential and iconic gestures to request genito-genital rubbing

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      Scientific Reports
      Nature Publishing Group

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          Abstract

          Referential and iconic gesturing provide a means to flexibly and intentionally share information about specific entities, locations, or goals. The extent to which nonhuman primates use such gestures is therefore of special interest for understanding the evolution of human language. Here, we describe novel observations of wild female bonobos ( Pan paniscus) using referential and potentially iconic gestures to initiate genito-genital (GG) rubbing, which serves important functions in reducing social tension and facilitating cooperation. We collected data from a habituated community of bonobos at Luikotale, DRC, and analysed n = 138 independent gesture bouts made by n = 11 females. Gestures were coded in real time or from video. In addition to meeting the criteria for intentionality, in form and function these gestures resemble pointing and pantomime–two hallmarks of human communication–in the ways in which they indicated the relevant body part or action involved in the goal of GG rubbing. Moreover, the gestures led to GG rubbing in 83.3% of gesture bouts, which in turn increased tolerance in feeding contexts between the participants. We discuss how biologically relevant contexts in which individuals are motivated to cooperate may facilitate the emergence of language precursors to enhance communication in wild apes.

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          Most cited references48

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          Observational study of behavior: sampling methods.

          J Altmann (1974)
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            Molecular evolution of FOXP2, a gene involved in speech and language.

            Language is a uniquely human trait likely to have been a prerequisite for the development of human culture. The ability to develop articulate speech relies on capabilities, such as fine control of the larynx and mouth, that are absent in chimpanzees and other great apes. FOXP2 is the first gene relevant to the human ability to develop language. A point mutation in FOXP2 co-segregates with a disorder in a family in which half of the members have severe articulation difficulties accompanied by linguistic and grammatical impairment. This gene is disrupted by translocation in an unrelated individual who has a similar disorder. Thus, two functional copies of FOXP2 seem to be required for acquisition of normal spoken language. We sequenced the complementary DNAs that encode the FOXP2 protein in the chimpanzee, gorilla, orang-utan, rhesus macaque and mouse, and compared them with the human cDNA. We also investigated intraspecific variation of the human FOXP2 gene. Here we show that human FOXP2 contains changes in amino-acid coding and a pattern of nucleotide polymorphism, which strongly suggest that this gene has been the target of selection during recent human evolution.
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              Origins of Human Communication

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Sci Rep
                Sci Rep
                Scientific Reports
                Nature Publishing Group
                2045-2322
                11 September 2015
                2015
                : 5
                : 13999
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology , Deutscher Platz 6, D‐04103 Leipzig, Germany
                Author notes
                Article
                srep13999
                10.1038/srep13999
                4642555
                26358661
                768e4e5c-b3af-4e6f-b6d6-60c849639273
                Copyright © 2015, Macmillan Publishers Limited

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

                History
                : 27 March 2015
                : 13 August 2015
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