Laughing is a way for people to connect and bond. Its sound is usually recognizable although reasons for laughing could vary across groups and individuals. But how about animals? Do they also laugh?
So, if they do laugh, were the causes that trigger their laughter resembles that of humans? Typically, humans laugh to express a range of emotions, from positive feelings to negative ones like disgust. Humans also laugh when they hear a joke or see something funny.
Laughing is usually only associated with humans and possibly some primates, but a recent study shows that they are not the only mammals that enjoy good laughter.
Animals Laugh Too
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) revealed that there are dozens of animals that can laugh. In total, BGR reported that the team has managed to identify 65 different creatures that laugh.
Animal vocalizations sometimes sound like a burst of laughter, but scientists said that not all of these are linked to playing.
The team identified playfulness as a key in differentiating animal vocalizations that are similar to the sound of human laughter and those sounds that only sound like laughter. After all, animals make vocalizations that may sound as if they are laughing but in truth, they are in danger, or perhaps it is a defense mechanism they use against predators.
In that sense, researchers pointed out very interesting conclusions, linking laughter and panting. They believe that laughter originated from heavy breathing during play.
But in modern times, laughing is a sign that humans enjoy something, and animals tend to breathe heavily when they are playing.
As researchers wrote in their study, "Play vocalizations and human laughter: a comparative review," published in Bioacoustics:
"Our review indicates that vocal play signals are usually inconspicuous, although loud vocalizations, which suggest a broadcast function, are present in humans and some other species. Spontaneous laughter in humans shares acoustic and functional characteristics with play vocalizations across many species, but most notably with other great apes. Play vocalizations in primates and other mammals often include sounds of panting, supporting the theory that human laughter evolved from an auditory cue of labored breathing during play."
Which Animals Can Laugh?
Many animal vocalizations for laughing only occur during play, Live Science reported. For example the purr of a vervet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops), or the peeping of a squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus), or the whistle squawk of a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).
Moreover, primates like chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, and baboons are known to produce playful laughter in the form of panting, chuckles, grunts, cackles, and trills. The study also found that they also do lip-smacking, and squeals as a form of laughter.
The team also listed some birds aside from mammals who can laugh. They included the Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) and the kea parrot (Nestor notabilis).
In a separate study in 2017, "Positive emotional contagion in a New Zealand parrot," researchers found that keas produce a warbling laughter sound during play and other keas start laughing as well when they hear laughter from the same species. In other words, kea laughter act as an invitation to other keas to play and laugh.
However, there are no records yet of other species being heard of laughing, like fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Perhaps it's due to whether or not play exists in these animal groups.
Check out more news and information on Laughter on Science Times.