Chimpanzees develop specific handshake-like gestures depending on their social group, according to the results of a 12-year observational study shedding light on the animals’ complex social structures.
Chimps are often referred to as being the most “humanlike” species, given their propensity to perform complicated tasks, such as tool use, long thought to be the sole preserve of mankind.
An expert in animal behavior at the University of Antwerp studied dozens of chimpanzees sheltered at Zambia’s Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust over a 12-year span. Despite a large turnover in the chimp population due to deaths and births, he was able to observe specific and repeated hand gestures among chimps in two distinct groups.
The gesture, known as the grooming handclasp, involves “each of the participants simultaneously (extending) an arm overhead and the other (clasping) the other’s wrist or hand or both clasping each other’s hand.”