A new study has revealed that chimpanzees have developed handshake-like gestures depending on their social group. The study that was conducted for 12 years showed that chimpanzees adhere to arbitrary group-specific handclasp preferences within-group that cannot be explained by genetics or the ecological environment. The study has been published in the journal Royal Society Biology Letters on May 26. Chimpanzees had group-specific grooming style preferences in which a substantial number of individuals replaced original group members owing to births, deaths and translocations.
The gesture, known as the grooming handclasp, involves each of the participants simultaneously extending an arm and the other clasping at the other's wrist or hand or both clasping each other's hand, according to the study. All chimpanzees showed and maintained the within-group homogeneity and between-group heterogeneity that are so characteristic of the cultural phenomenon in the human species. According to the study, the researchers found that female chimps were far more likely than males to grasp palms, while male chimpanzees were likely to grasp wrists.
The study was conducted on 71 chimpanzees who lived in large forested enclosures consisting of miombo vegetation closely resembling chimpanzees' natural habitat. Chimpanzees at Chimfunshi engage in fission-fusion dynamics, encounter large and dangerous animals in their enclosure, and sleep outside. Chimpanzees had group-specific grooming style preferences across a 12-year study period in which a substantial number of individuals replaced original group members owing to births, deaths and translocations. The stability of cultural variants indicates that social culture in chimpanzees is robust. Animals can develop and maintain cultural preferences in the domain of arbitrary, non-fitness-related phenomena, much like the human species. These findings of the study indicate that human culture, including its arbitrary social conventions and long-term stability, is rooted in the evolution of humankind.
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