Researchers from St Andrews University have shown that Orang-utans intentionally modify or repeat their signals to get their messages across. The study involved six orang-utans living in two zoos. Richard Byrne, and an author of the study, said: “When we communicate, we routinely use our knowledge of what our audience knows. We wanted to find out whether the great apes do the same thing."
Researchers set up a situation where six captive orang-utans were presented with a keeper who had treats, such as bananas, and blander food, such as leeks or celery. The animals gestured to attract the keeper's attention so the tasty treat would be passed to them. Once the orang-utans had done this, the keepers did one of three things: they either handed them the treat, handed them the bland food or handed them half the treat. The scientists then recorded their reactions.
"When the keeper gave the orangutan the really nice food, that was the end of it," explained Professor Byrne. "But when the keeper pretended to fail to understand the original gesture and gave the wrong food, the orangutans stopped using the gestures they had used before and started using some different gestures. When the keeper half understood and gave the orangutan part of the treat, they started to repeat the same gestures that they had used, but they would repeat them even more enthusiastically."
Given that orangutans are the most distantly related great ape to humans, the scientists believe that all great apes would prove to have this skill. More evidence that we are just shaved apes?
In my case a bit less shaved than others...