Scientists have observed two chimpanzees in a US zoo performing a duo dance-like behaviour similar to a human conga-line, a hitherto never-before-seen behaviour that has sparked the question about how human dance evolved. The researchers led by the University of Warwick in the UK also found that the levels of co-ordination, synchrony and rhythm between the two female chimpanzees matched those shown by orchestra players performing the same musical piece. Other species have been shown to be able to entertain by moving to the pace of a rhythmic tempo by an external stimulus and solo individuals.
However this is the first time it has not been triggered by nonhuman partners or signals, according to the research published in the journal Scientific Reports. Although the newly described behaviour probably represents a new form in captivity in this great ape species, it forces scientists interested in the evolution of human dance to consider new conditions that may have catalysed the emergence of one of human's most exuberant and richest forms of expression.
"Dance is an icon of human expression. Despite astounding diversity around the world's cultures and dazzling abundance of reminiscent animal systems, the evolution of dance in the human clade remains obscure," said Adriano Lameira, from the University of Warwick.
"Dance requires individuals to interactively synchronise their whole-body tempo to their partner's, with near-perfect precision, this explains why no dance forms were present amongst nonhuman primates.
"Critically, this is evidence for conjoined full-body rhythmic entrainment in great apes that could help reconstruct possible proto-stages of human dance is still lacking," Lameira said.