Nasal temperature drop in response to a playback of conspecific fights in chimpanzees: a thermo-imaging study

Fumihiro Kano*, Satoshi Hirata, Tobias Deschner, Verena Behringer, Josep Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Emotion is one of the central topics in animal studies and is likely to attract attention substantially in the coming years. Recent studies have developed a thermo-imaging technique to measure the facial skin temperature in the studies of emotion in humans and macaques. Here we established the procedures and techniques needed to apply the same technique to great apes. We conducted two experiments respectively in the two established research facilities in Germany and Japan. Total twelve chimpanzees were tested in three conditions in which they were presented respectively with the playback sounds (Exp. 1) or the videos (Exp. 2) of fighting conspecifics, control sounds/videos (allospecific display call: Exp. 1; resting conspecifics: Exp. 2), and no sound/image. Behavioral, hormonal (salivary cortisol) and heart-rate responses were simultaneously recorded. The nasal temperature of chimpanzees linearly dropped up to 1.5. °C in 2. min, and recovered to the baseline in 2. min, in the experimental but not control conditions. We found the related changes in excitement behavior and heart-rate variability, but not in salivary cortisol, indicating that overall responses were involved with the activities of sympathetic nervous system but not with the measureable activities of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The influence of general activity (walking, eating) was not negligible but controllable in experiments. We propose several techniques to control those confounding factors. Overall, thermo-imaging is a promising technique that should be added to the traditional physiological and behavioral measures in primatology and comparative psychology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-94
Number of pages12
JournalPhysiology & Behavior
Early online date4 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Aggression
  • Emotion
  • Great ape
  • Skin temperature
  • Thermo-imaging


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