Chimpanzees have been the subjects of numerous studies over the years.  The vast majority of those studies have been prompted by the supposed evolutionary relationship between chimps and humans.

One of the latest studies to be reported in the scientific literature involved a project to identify gestures used by chimpanzees to communicate to each other.  Previous studies on identifying chimp gestures were conducted on captive chimps in which around 30 different gestures were identified.

In this study, Dr. Catherine Hobaiter from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland studied a group of wild chimpanzees in the jungles of Uganda.  Over a two year period, Dr. Hobaiter spent 266 days with the wild chimps.  Eventually the chips became accustomed to her presence and went about their normal daily routines.  During that time, she observed and filmed the daily interactions within the group.

Dr. Hobaiter and her colleague Professor Richard Byrne, carefully examined 120 hours of footage of the chimp’s interactions with each other.  They watched to see if the chimps deliberately made some kind of movement toward another chimp that had the purpose of generating some sort of response.  They also looked to see if the gestures were persistent and if the chimp making the gesture was looking at the individual or individuals to whom it was gesturing towards.

So far they have identified 66 gestures used by the group of wild chimps and believe there may be more as they continue to study the footage.  One such gesture mentioned was when a mother wanted her daughter to climb on her back so she could move away from where she was.  The mother held out her left hand and waited for the daughter to respond.  The young chimp was close enough for the mother to pick up and place on her back, but she chose to gesture instead.  When the daughter started to move closer, the mother chimp repeated the gesture and gave a ‘bare-teeth grin” at which the youngster climbed up and away they went.

According to the report, the researchers believe that the results of this study show that the gestures are not group specific but are shared throughout the species.  Then comparing the gestures to studies done on gorillas and orangutans, they found there was some overlap use of the same gestures by the three different species, causing Dr. Hobaiter to conclude:

This supports our belief that the gestures that apes use (and maybe some human gestures too) are derived from ancient shared ancestry of all the great ape species alive today.

Rather than a common ancestor, perhaps a better explanation would be a common Designer?  If our Creator used the same basic design and genetic blueprints when He created life on earth, wouldn’t it make sense that He also used some of the basic instincts and behaviors as well?

I would be very curious to see the same type of study carried out on a number of different animal species other than primates.  The results may be more eye-opening to the evolutionary researchers may want to see.

For example, have you ever been around any animals on a regular basis and observed their habits and behaviors?  You quickly learn that many of them communicate with gestures and body languages.  When compared across different animal groups, you will find some overlap of the same gestures being used for similar communication.

As a trained wildlife biologist coupled with being around various animals most of my life, I have observed similar gestures and body language communication used by different animals.  For instance, the communication carried out by facing another individual with the body, head and eyes aligned straight on the subject.  This posturing is generally read as an act of dominance or aggression.  Turn the head slightly to one side and not stare directly into the other’s eyes and it is read as being friendly or submissive.  I’ve witnessed this form of communication in dogs, wolves, bears, bighorn sheep, horses, some large cats as well as primates and humans.  Likewise, I’ve seen the turning of one’s back to another who is seeking their attention used as a demonstration of purposefully ignoring or snubbing the other individual in dogs, bears and horses.

Are these indicators of a common ancestor between the different animal groups or evidence of a common Designer?  We have a lot to learn from the animals and nature around us if only we would watch and listen to what they are trying to tell us about the One who created us all as it says in Job 12:7-10:

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:

Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.

Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?

In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.


Gill, Victoria, Chimpanzees’ 66 Gestures Revealed, BBC News, May 5, 2011.

Additional Resources

Worship Not the Creature: Animal Rights and the Bible

by Dr. J. Y. Jones

Worship Not the Creature: Animal Rights and the Bible delivers the most forthright and engaging presentation of the Biblical view of animals in print. J. Y. Jones, long an accomplished physician, scholar, writer, outdoorsman, hunter, and man of God, is uniquely qualified to offer his cutting-edge treatment of this controversial topic. Don’t let the down-to-earth, diverting and friendly style fool you. Just as Americas wise Founding Fathers discovered latent tyranny in a penny tea tax, Dr. Jones powerfully exposes the radical political agenda of the contemporary animal rights movement. With careful argument, he reveals the animal rights movement as a potentially significant menace to liberty and even to Christianity itself. Adding Dr. Joness able apologetic for the Christian faith in reasoned and transparently personal terms, one should prepare for a rich, compelling, and enjoyable read.

About the Author: An eye physician and surgeon for almost forty years, Dr. Jones is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He has received numerous awards for writing and photography. He is a frequent speaker at wild-game suppers and other sportsmens events, and particularly enjoys sharing his Christian testimony. He has volunteered in twenty-three overseas eye-surgery mission trips. He is fluent in Spanish and conversational in Russian. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1964.

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