Chimpanzees are capable of using gestures to communicate with each other as they pursue goals such as finding a hidden piece of food, U.S. researchers say.
Researchers at Georgia State University's Language Research Center examined how two language-trained chimpanzees communicated with a human experimenter to find food, and found the most compelling evidence to date primates can use gestures to coordinate actions in pursuit of a specific goal, the university reported Friday.
In a test demanding coordination among the chimps and a human -- who did not know where the food was hidden in a large outdoor area -- the chimpanzees were found to use gestures such as pointing to guide the human experimenter to food hidden more than 10 yards away.
The design of the experiment featuring the "chimpanzee as director" created new ways to study the primate, the researchers said.
"It allows the chimpanzees to communicate information in the manner of their choosing, but also requires them to initiate and to persist in communication," language center researcher Charles Menzel said.
"This study adds to our understanding of how well chimpanzees can remember and communicate about their environment," he said.
The use of gestures to coordinate joint activities such as finding food may have been an important building block in the evolution of language, the researchers said.