Evolutionary Roots of Laughter

Forget DNA! Scientists have re-traced our evolutionary tree and confirmed human's relationship to fellow apes through laughter.

Who says you can't learn anything by tickling chimps?

To investigate that, Marina Davila Ross of the University of Portsmouth in England and colleagues carried out a detailed analysis of the sounds evoked by tickling three human babies and 21 orangutans, gorillas, chimps and bonobos.

After measuring 11 traits in the sound from each species, they mapped out how these sounds appeared to be related to each other. The result looked like a family tree. Significantly, that tree matched the way the species themselves are related, the scientists reported online Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

They also concluded that while human laughter sounds much different from the ape versions, its distinctive features could well have arisen from shared ancestral traits.

After measuring 11 traits in the sound from each species, they mapped out how these sounds appeared to be related to each other. The result looked like a family tree. Significantly, that tree matched the way the species themselves are related, the scientists reported online Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

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