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The researchers found the animals make “play vocalizations,” otherwise known as laughter, though each animal’s laugh sounds slightly different.
We’ve known for a while that some species laugh, like apes and rats, but that are other animals we’re hearing about for the first time, like cows and dogs. The list of species with documented laughter includes a long list of primates, along with seals, birds, mongooses, domesticated cows, and foxes.
In a press release from UCLA, the researchers explained that there was a lot of documentation of “play-based body language” among a wide range of animal species, but it could be hard to distinguish between playing and fighting. What they discovered is that laughter may help emphasize non-aggression during physical moments that may otherwise resemble fighting.
Co-author of the study, Sasha Winkler, said in the press release: “When we laugh, we are often providing information to others that we are having fun and also inviting others to join. Some scholars have suggested that this kind of vocal behavior is shared across many animals who play, and as such, laughter is our human version of an evolutionarily old vocal play signal.”
Ever wondered how uniquely human laughter is? Check out my new paper in #Bioacoustics with Greg Bryant – we review scholarship on play vocalizations across the animal kingdom and describe a theory for the evolution of laughter from a pant-like play signal https://t.co/V7ByMqpkff pic.twitter.com/tYCpYLOf7B
— Sasha Winkler (@ScienceSquil) May 7, 2021
Previously, it was largely believed that laughter was a particularly human trait, but this research could be the stepping stone to finding out otherwise.
“This work lays out nicely how a phenomenon once thought to be particularly human turns out to be closely tied to behavior shared with species separated from humans by tens of millions of years,” Professor Greg Bryant added.
Around the world, like in South Korea, Switzerland, Spain, and Canada, people are fighting to have animals recognized as sentient beings. Through education and research like this study, we’re learning just how alike animals are to humans when it comes to feeling a range of emotions – and how important it is to reduce the suffering we cause them.
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