The development of gestural communication in great apes

Cat Hobaiter, Marlen Frohlich

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Great apes deploy gestural signals in goal-directed and flexible ways across a wide range of social contexts. Despite growing evidence for profound effects of developmental experience on social cognition, socio-ecological factors shaping gesture use are still poorly understood, particularly in apes living in their natural environment. After discussing current ambiguities in terminology and methods, we review recent work implementing a longitudinal and/or cross-sectional approach in great ape gesture acquisition and development. To understand whether and to what extent the socio-ecological environment influences gestural communication, it is essential to distinguish between the gesture repertoire and gesture usage, which represent different levels of analysis. While the majority of the apes’ gestural repertoire seems to be innate, accumulating evidence shows that the communicative usage of these signals is substantially affected by interactional experiences throughout ontogeny.
Original languageEnglish
Article number194
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number12
Early online date15 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Gesture
  • Communication
  • Development
  • Repertoire
  • Usage
  • Great apes


Dive into the research topics of 'The development of gestural communication in great apes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this