Gorillas Play a Game of Tag Just Like Humans

If you like to play the game of tag when you were a little kid, you'd get a kick out of this: scientists have discovered that gorillas also play it!

To study play-fighting among gorillas, scientists analyzed videos of 21 of the apes from six colonies in five European zoos collected over the course of three years.

In their games, "not only did the gorillas in our study hit their playmates and then run away chased by their playmates, but they also switched their roles when hit so the chaser became the chased and vice versa," said researcher Marina Davila Ross, a behavioral biologist at the University of Portsmouth in England. "There are a lot of similarities with the children's game of tag." [...]

Instead of letting what might be a fair trade of blows happen, these hit-and-run games were shows of relatively unfair behavior, where the gorilla who starts the game tries to get away with tagging a fellow playmate without getting hit in return. Such games likely help the apes — and humans — learn how to deal with real conflict by testing what is acceptable with a safe crowd of peers and even parents, Davila Ross said.

Charles Q. Choi of LiveScience has more: Link (Photo: Elke Zimmermann)

Trivia for you: "Gorilla" comes from the Greek word meaning "tribe of hairy women." The animal was first described by Hanno the Navigator, a Carthaginian navigator in 480 BC.

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Why is it that scientists find that this is worth study? Anyone who has ever watched, say, puppies or kittens, knows that they play. Is it really worth spending money and careers looking for proof amongst the world's wild animals or non-domesticated animals?

For pete's sake, it doesn't take a genius to imagine that all baby mammals share a need to play, does it?
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