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Coupled whole-body rhythmic entrainment between two chimpanzees.

Lameira, A. R. and Eerola, T. and Ravignani, A. (2019) 'Coupled whole-body rhythmic entrainment between two chimpanzees.', Scientific reports., 9 . p. 18914.


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. Dance requires individuals to interactively synchronize their whole-body tempo to their partner’s, with near-perfect precision. This capacity is motorically-heavy, engaging multiple neural circuitries, but also dependent on an acute socio-emotional bond between partners. Hitherto, these factors helped explain why no dance forms were present amongst nonhuman primates. Critically, evidence for conjoined full-body rhythmic entrainment in great apes that could help reconstruct possible proto-stages of human dance is still lacking. Here, we report an endogenously-effected case of ritualized dance-like behaviour between two captive chimpanzees – synchronized bipedalism. We submitted video recordings to rigorous time-series analysis and circular statistics. We found that individual step tempo was within the genus’ range of “solo” bipedalism. Between-individual analyses, however, revealed that synchronisation between individuals was non-random, predictable, phase concordant, maintained with instantaneous centi-second precision and jointly regulated, with individuals also taking turns as “pace-makers”. No function was apparent besides the behaviour’s putative positive social affiliation. Our analyses show a first case of spontaneous whole-body entrainment between two ape peers, thus providing tentative empirical evidence for phylogenies of human dance. Human proto-dance, we argue, may have been rooted in mechanisms of social cohesion among small groups that might have granted stress-releasing benefits via gait-synchrony and mutual-touch. An external sound/musical beat may have been initially uninvolved. We discuss dance evolution as driven by ecologically-, socially- and/or culturally-imposed “captivity”.

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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit © The Author(s) 2019.
Date accepted:08 November 2019
Date deposited:12 December 2019
Date of first online publication:12 December 2019
Date first made open access:12 December 2019

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