KIRSTY E. GRAHAM, then a graduate student at University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, United Kingdom, was awarded a grant in October 2014 to aid research on 'Gestrual Communication of Wild Bonobos (Pan paniscus),' supervised by Dr. Richard W. Byrne. Given humans' propensity for accompanying speech with gestures, gestural communication is intrinsic to language. Indeed, great apes, our closest living relatives, employ large repertoires of flexible and intentionally produced gestures. The grantee conducted the first comprehensive study on the complete gestural repertoire of wild bonobos, aimed at discovering the repertoire, determining the meaning of gesture types, and comparing the repertoire to that of wild chimpanzees. Research was conducted over a six-month field period at Wamba research site in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). By recording and coding video footage of gestural communication, it was found that wild bonobos use 57 gesture types, compared to 66 for a comparable study on wild chimpanzees. Eighty-nine percent of the bonobo repertoire was shared with chimpanzees. This considerable overlap points towards a biological repertoire shared by both Pan species. In the next stage, the grantee will analyze and determine the meaning of each gesture type to explore whether bonobos and chimpanzees are using the same gesture types for the same purposes. With these new insights on the intentional production of a biological gestural repertoire, future research must now consider how gestural communication fits into the evolution of human language, a richly intentional, acquired verbal repertoire.
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
St. Andrews, U. of
Graham, Kirsty Emma, U. of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, UK - To aid research on 'Gestural Communication of Wild Bonobos (Pan paniscus),' supervised by Dr. Richard Willam Byrne