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Do animals have a sense of humour?

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Believe it or not, studies have shown that monkeys, dogs, rats, and some other animals do indeed laugh. Neural paths for laughter are deep in the brain and found in both humans and animals, which many accept as proof that laughing is integral to play and fun. A new study of 65 animals published in the journal Bioacoustics (that’s a thing) revealed each species had their own form of laughter.

Infants and young children laugh instinctively during play, which shows that laughter is natural, not learned. A study showed how babies and young chimpanzees even have similar facial expressions when laughing.

Chimpanzees pant during playtime, rats chirp when tickled, and dogs huff when having fun; these noises form social bonds with fellow animal playmates, just as shared laughter can strengthen bonds between humans.

Laughter in animals is still under-studied and some researchers still aren’t convinced animals have a sense of humour, but Koko the gorilla might change their minds. Project Koko is the longest interspecies communication study in history. Koko has learned more than 1,000 words in sign language and can understand around 2,000 spoken English words. Through sign language and other forms of communication, researchers have recognized the gorilla’s emotional likeness to humans.

Koko laughs in response to tickles. She once played a prank on one of her trainers, tying his shoelaces together and signing the word “chase,” and then laughing at his clumsiness. When trying to insult someone, she sometimes signs the words “devil” or “toilet.” When asked to give an example of something hard, she signed both “rock” and “work.”

However, the animal with the most research attention is the rat. When being tickled or engaged in play with rats of similar size, they make high-pitched chirping noises. Rats enjoy being tickled so much that they chase after the tickling fingers of their researchers.

Discover More: Check out this cool article on the science of laughter…in humans.

Image Courtesy: Photo by Aidas Ciziunas on Unsplash

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