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York University scientists make breakthrough in understanding of orangutans

Two York University scientists have made important advances in our understanding of how orangutans communicate. As reported by the Guardian UK, psychologist Anne Russon and philosopher Kristin Andrews discovered, after analyzing 20 years of video footage, that orangutans can use mime to communicate. The study is important as it suggests that the apes "are capable of more complex communication than previously thought".

"The study, published in the Biology Letters journal, suggests miming is rare in wild orangutans, but is used when other forms of communication fail."

"Andrews said: "Great apes' ability to engage in rudimentary narrative communication suggests to us that, like humans, they are able to make sense of their world by telling stories, and to relay their thoughts about the world to others."Previous studies have described a gorilla acting as though it was rolling a ball of clay between her hands, which was interpreted as meaning "clay". A language-trained orangutan was also observed blowing through its thumb and forefinger to express the word "balloon"."

"The researchers write: "These orangutan and other great ape pantomime cases indicate that pantomime serves multiple purposes and supports important communicative complexities in living great apes. For great apes, like humans, pantomime is a medium, not a message."

read full story here
original source Guardian UK
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