Monkeys Create Own Language Sign

Mandrills invent way to sign 'do not disturb'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2011 3:22 AM CDT
Monkeys Create Own Language Sign
Mandrills are the largest members of the monkey family.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Monkeys at a British zoo have developed a way of saying "leave me alone" that doesn't involve biting or flinging poop. The mandrills cover their eyes—much like in the "see no evil" gesture—when they desire solitude, and their fellow monkeys respect the signal, the Telegraph reports. Researchers believe that a member of the group invented the sign and other monkeys picked it up in a never-before-witnessed example of monkeys creating sign language within their own community.

The researcher who observed the phenomenon says he has been observing mandrills for years and never seen the gesture used anywhere else. Further research is likely to turn up more monkey gestures invented for cultural reasons, suggesting that "the capacity to communicate with the hands in a meaningful way may have existed a long time before humans came on the scene," he tells Scientific American. (Read more sign language stories.)

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