2.22.2007

Monkey Hugs

When one human meets another for the first time, we gesture: the Americans shake hands, the Japanese bow, the French kiss. New field research in Mexico finds that when groups of spider monkeys want to avoid gang violence, they hug. Aww.

The monkeys, Ateles geoffroyi, live in large forest groups, but split into much smaller gangs when searching for food. When searching, the gangs will run into each other a lot, and sometimes these encounters turn violent. Other times, though, individuals from different groups will embrace.

In the new study, anthropologist Filippo Aureli of Liverpool John Moores University reports that the violent or aggressive encounters were more likely to happen when the monkeys didn’t hug first.

Interestingly, the monkeys don’t embrace members of their own groups, which makes Aureli think that, as he told Nature News, "The embrace could be a way of testing the bond between monkeys, as it exposes vulnerable parts of the body to attack.”

But wait! Wait! We don’t even need to go to Mexico to see this behavior in action...

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