Let this sink in: chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas. But our similarities to chimps go way beyond the nearly 99% of genetic code we have in common.
Sometimes we even “talk” alike
In fact, in 2018, research published in the science journal Animal Cognition found some interesting similarities between young chimpanzees and human babies and toddlers. Behavioral researchers found that children between the ages of 1 and 2 have many of the same communication gestures as chimps.
Chimps do plenty of other things we think of as human too – they laugh when they’re tickled, the kiss and hug each other, they hold hands, and even shake their fists when angry. They also express a range of emotions from joy and sadness to fear and empathy.
And since chimpanzees spend the first 5 years of their lives close to their mothers, should we be all that surprised that they share some of the same interactions that human mothers and children do?
Here comes the airplane
In a video uploaded in the summer of 2018 by the Tai Chimp Project in Taï National Park, Cote d’Ivoire, we see an adult and baby chimp playing “airplane.”
It might be a little rougher than human babies can handle (please don’t shake your baby), but there’s something so…well, human about the interaction.
Baby chimps need lots of love and touch to thrive and develop strong bonds with parents. While it’s not clear what the relationship is between the adult and baby chimp, it’s clear that it’s one built on trust – and playfulness.
The adult is on its back, holding the baby up with its legs and bouncing it in the air. The baby just dangles there, “riding the airplane,” just one with some major turbulence.
After the fun and games are over, the adult takes the baby in its arms and gives it a big snuggle as they roll around.
The Taï Chimp Project began in 1979, and the nonprofit is based in Leipzig, Germany. For more than 40 years they’ve been researching chimpanzee conservation and culture.
“Recently, comparisons of behavior patterns seen at Taï with those exhibited in other chimpanzee populations all over Africa have led to the recognition of chimpanzee culture, an attribute previously restricted to humans,” they said.
Human children “used 52 gestures to communicate, [many] of which are shared with chimpanzees and gorillas,” reports the University of St. Andrews. In fact, 46 of those human child gestures (89 percent) are present in the chimpanzee’s range of body language. Great Apes as a whole have over 80 communication gestures.
Once we use the same rubric to understand ourselves and another species we can truly see what we have in common and use the same vocabulary to describe it. But researchers aren’t pretending they see similarities where they don’t exist. Thousands of hours of observation go into making these connections.
While you probably don’t want to try and hold your baby like a chimpanzee, the video shows that the species is just as playful and loving as humans are when they interact with their little ones.
Be sure to scroll down below to see the fascinating and adorable video of two chimps playing “airplane.”
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