• Gestural repertoire size is associated with social proximity measures in wild chimpanzees.

      Roberts, Anna I.; Chakrabarti, Anwesha; Roberts, Sam G. B. (2019-02-01)
      Studying the communication systems of primates can provide insights into the evolutionary origins of human language. Some theories propose that language evolved to help meet the demands of managing complex social relationships. Examining the associations between sociality and communication in the great apes can help to identify the specific selection pressures that may have been important for language evolution. In particular, gestural communication is believed to be important because it is a relatively recent trait seen only in primates and particularly in the great apes. However, the extent to which more complex gestural communication plays a role in managing social relationships, as compared to less complex gestural communication, is not well understood. Using social network analysis, we examined the association between complex gesturing (indexed as repertoire size) and complexity of social relationships indexed as proximity (the duration of time spent within 10 m, per hour spent in same party) in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). Repertoire size (the total number of gesture types a focal subject produced toward other individuals) and dyadic repertoire size (the number of gesture types produced toward the dyad partner, per hour spent within 10 meters) were positively associated with proximity at the level of the group (centrality in the proximity network) and the dyad (proximity duration between dyads), respectively. Further, the repertoire size of visual and auditory short-range gestures was positively associated with proximity, while the repertoire size of tactile gesture was negatively associated with proximity. Overall these results suggest that gestural repertoire size has important implications for maintaining social relationships in wild chimpanzees and more broadly that gestural communication may have played an important role in language evolution. [Abstract copyright: © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.]