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‘Playful Teasing’ in Apes Could Provide Clues to the Evolutionary Roots of Early Humor

Even before they learn to talk, human infants and toddlers know how to joke: They play games such as peek-a-boo and take whatever unexpected actions get a rise from adults. Now, it appears that nonhuman apes — like gorillas and orangutans — engage in similar behaviors, according to a paper published last week in Biology Letters. Science chatted with co-author Erica Cartmill, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, about what these “playful teasing” behaviors look like in our evolutionary cousins.

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