Clap Your Hands Say Gorilla: Females Use Clapping to Control, Alert Family

By Rachel Cernansky | May 8, 2009 12:28 pm

goirlla.jpgThe forests of Africa can be a rough place to keep a family together. How do female gorillas keep everyone in line? They clap their hands!

A new study shows that adult female lowland gorillas clap their hands to attract the attention of adult silverbacks and infants. The researchers saw one infant stop playing upon hearing its mother’s clap, while the other adults stopped foraging. Four other mothers were observed clapping their hands twice in rapid succession when infants were present.

Females were also observed clapping their hands as a warning, alerting the males to the presence of humans. One silverback responded by trying to intimidate the human observers, and another simply stayed behind a tree, roared loudly, then drummed on the roots and beat his chest.

The study author said that clapping is a method of long-distance communication for western lowland gorillas (a different species from those that live in the mountains, who are not thought to also use hand-clapping), and “allows the gorillas to maintain group cohesiveness.”

Sounds like kindergarten class in the African bush!

Related Content:
Discoblog: All the Last Gorilla in India Wants Is a Date

Image: Flickr / Greencolander


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