Family reunions are a time to rekindle relationships, catch up, and shower love on people we only see occasionally. Although they don’t have organized reunions, members of several primate species show us how like humans they truly are. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) discovered that apes recognize one another. Conclusions found the recognition even after years of separation.
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The study included chimpanzees and bonobos, which are the two primate species most closely related to humans. Harvard University evolutionary biologist Laura S. Lewis led the study. They found that recognition was consistent, even after decades of separation. The experiments took place in a variety of locations, including Edinburgh Zoo (Scotland), Planckendael Zoo (Belgium), and the Kumamoto Sanctuary (Japan).
The study used a computer screen to display side-by-side images of each subject. The images included an unknown ape and an ape that was known by the subject. Images supplied for recognition included other primates that had resided with the subject for at least one year. The images may represent a friend, foe, or relative but each have a prior relationship with the subject animal. Infrared eye-tracking cameras tracked the eye movements of the subjects. When the chimpanzees and bonobos recognized an image, they stared at them longer.
Explaining the test, Lewis said, “It was a really simple test: Do they look longer at their previous groupmate, or are they looking longer at the stranger? And we found that, yes, they are looking significantly longer at the pictures of their previous groupmates.”
Chimpanzees and Bonobos Do Recognize Faces
The conclusions of the study were obvious. Apes consistently recognized familiar faces. The similarities to humans and our familial interactions have a firm scientific basis. The telling part was that, even after 26 years apart, a 46-year-old Bonobo named Louise recognized two family members. You can watch a short video about the study here. Go hug your family.
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