Apes' faces 'reveal family ties'

Published: Thursday, February 12, 2009, 14:25 [IST]

London, Feb 12 (ANI): Humans can discern family resemblances in great apes and some monkeys, hints a new study.

According to lead researcher Alexandra Alvergne, an anthropologist at the University of Montpelier, France, if humans can garner enough information from primate faces to tell kin from stranger, then perhaps closely related animals can do the same.

"We do not know if the others species use [facial recognition], but we know that it is possible," New Scientist quoted her, as saying.

The finding could shed light how, among promiscuous species such as chimpanzees, fathers determine which children are their own.

Facial recognition might also help closely related individuals avoid inbreeding, Alvergne says.

To see if other primate faces convey enough information to determine relatedness, the scientists tested whether humans could see a family resemblance in chimpanzees, lowland mountain gorillas, mandrills and chacma baboons.

The research team showed volunteers - 618 in all - a picture of one individual, followed by three different members of the same species. One of the three was the parent of the first animal.

On average, volunteers picked the related chimpanzee, gorilla and mandrill at rates well above chance, but not so for baboons. This could be because baboon faces convey few obvious giveaways to kinship.

The study has been published in the International Journal of Primatology. (ANI)

 

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