London: You may call it the ape lexicon,
but orangutans use 40 gestures to communicate, say scientists.
A British team at St Andrews University has identified
the 40 frequently used body language signals, gestures, smacks
and movements, after spending nine months observing orangutans
in three European zoos, the `Daily Mail` reported.
The scientists have found that the apes have at
least 25 signals or gestures for "I want to play", for example
-- ranging from a back roll and somersault, to a yank of their
hair or a bite of the air.
Other clowning gestures for play include placing
objects on their heads, playing with their faces and raising
their arms. Brushing with a hand means they want something to
stop, while embracing and pulling at the same time means they
want another ape to walk with them.
Other gestures include hitting the ground, swatting,
grabbing, and dangling upside down.
The findings don`t just reveal how apes communicate --
they also shed light on the origins of human speech millions
of years ago, say the scientists.
"Many of the gestures are humanlike. When they wanted
to communicate `come here` one put an arm round another ape.
One `stop` gesture was a light tap on the hand -- often of an
infant -- which get the other to stop whatever they`re doing.
"A fascinating thing is that there`s not a great deal
of variation between groups of apes. An orangutan in Singapore
gestures in pretty much the same way as an orangutan in a zoo
in Philadelphia or Wales," lead scientist Erica Cartmill said.
The findings have been published in the latest edition
of the `Animal Cognition` journal.