Dialects in leaf-clipping and other leaf-modifying gestures between neighbouring communities of East African chimpanzees

Gal Badihi*, Kirsty E. Graham, Brittany Fallon, Alexandra Safryghin, Adrian Soldati, Klaus Zuberbühler, Catherine Hobaiter

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Dialects are a cultural property of animal communication previously described in the signals of several animal species. While dialects have predominantly been described in vocal signals, chimpanzee leaf-clipping and other ‘leaf-modifying’ gestures, used across chimpanzee and bonobo communities, have been suggested as a candidate for cultural variation in gestural communication. Here we combine direct observation with archaeological techniques to compare the form and use of leaf-modifying gestures in two neighbouring communities of East African chimpanzees. We found that while both communities used multiple forms, primarily within sexual solicitation, they showed a strong preference for a single, different gesture form. The observed variation in form preference between these neighbouring communities within the same context suggests that these differences are, at least in part, socially derived. Our results highlight an unexplored source of variation and flexibility in gestural communication, opening the door for future research to explore socially derived dialects in non-vocal communication.
Original languageEnglish
Article number147
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2023

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