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Researchers get ticklish to discover origins of laughter


“Hi honey, how was your day?”

“Oh, pretty good – I tickled some chimps for a bit and then started in on the babies…”

Not a typical day in the office for most of us perhaps, but when British researcher Marina Davila Ross of the University of Portsmouth, England began a study to trace the origin of human laughter, she knew she was going to have to get hands on.

She and her colleagues tickled three human babies as well as 21 orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos. They recorded the laughter sounds that resulted from each bout of tickling, and were able to identify some sounds which indicate humans and apes may have a shared laughter heritage. (I’m guessing they also identified that tickling babies and primates is a fun way to spend a day).

To think, at school I was under the misapprehension that science was boring.

Image: Thomas Lersch via Wikipedia.

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