Chimpanzees Dance The Same Way Than Humans, Declare Kyoto University Researchers
If you think that clapping and dancing to music are uniquely human features, you are totally wrong. A new study, carried out by Japanese scientists and published last December, demonstrates that our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, like to dance to music, and even spontaneously clap hands.
In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Kyoto University observed chimpanzees spontaneously dancing in a sort of conga line.
During an unrelated experiment, the researchers noticed that a chimpanzee would start to dance whenever they played music. Then they decided to play music to a group of 7 chimpanzees and found that all of them would respond to the music by moving, dancing, while each of them had his or her original way to do so.
‘Some swayed, some knocked on the walls of their enclosure’, observed the researchers, ‘and one even tapped her foot’. ‘Chimpanzees dance to some extent in the same way as humans,’ lead researcher Dr. Yuko Hattori said. It’s important to note that none of these chimps had been taught to dance before and none of them were rewarded for doing so.
The funny thing is that males had a tendency to move more and be more vocal than females! Akira, a male who danced the most, was studied even closer and researchers noticed he danced whenever music was played, regardless of its tempo.
‘Given that humans do not have such a sex difference in musical ability, higher sensitivity to sound in male chimpanzees may have been acquired after chimpanzees diverged from the common ancestor shared with humans,” the researchers wrote. The researchers also noted that the difference could be due to the Chimpanzees’ highly patriarchal society, where male chimpanzees often collaborate to protect their territory and group members. Sadly, there is still no feminist movement among chimps.
It’s an important discovery which could tell us more about the origin of dance and maybe its function for our ancestors. It seems that dancing is primal and very deeply rooted in our primate nature, and not something that has been learned.
I am surprised it took so long to establish this finding! Videos of dancing cockatoos have been very popular for a while, and so we know that we are not the only species responding to music. Intelligent birds such as parrots spontaneously dance with even some great headbanging, while musical tastes even vary from one bird to the next. My favorite video has to be this very funny one showing one parrot really enjoying the music, while the other one is not so much into it. Animals are just like us, they respond to beats and sounds and reveal different personalities. This should not come as a surprise.