Nature Blog Network Future Earth: Body language bonanza

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Body language bonanza

The Europe summits have provided a host of photo ops and what rich seams they provide for miners of body language.

This is my favourite, from the Independent today. The annointed, the boss and the wanabe. Anyone who has spent time studying non-human primates will have seen something similar in multi-male groups in their own habitats.

We are not so very different. Professor Filipo Aureli's research group has recently demonstrated that consolation between members of a chimpanzee group reduces stress and is not simply a technique for deflecting aggression. This is indicative of empathy, usually thought to be a uniquely human characteristic. On April 1st (naturally) a BBC report looked into calls by Aureli and others for the Great Apes to be re-classified as hominids and the suggestion that this should be exposed to public debate by the Linnean Society. Dr. Sandy Knapp, Chair of the Linnean Society Committe was asked for her opinion. "What makes us the same is more interesting than what makes us different" she said.

Is that an empathetic arm President Obama, or a confirmation of dominance, or a "thank you for the troops my friend"?

Who is with me that a mountain gorilla would be able to read its intent in a heartbeat?.

(Thanks to Aveling Artworks for permission to use this contemplative illustration).

1 comment:

Neil said...

Proof if it were needed that to be a US President you don't just have to look like a great ape to show the same body language as one!

And in all seriousness a real reminder of our closeness to the great ape primates and why their conservation is so vital and their endangered species so meaningful. Here's hoping Obama, the world's new dominant alpha male, can do so much better to raise environmental awareness generally and species conservation issues specifically than his predecessor.