Researchers studied 22 sun bears in spontaneous social play at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Malaysia in outdoor forest enclosures big enough to let the animals decide whether to interact or avoid each other all day. The bears exactly mimicked facial expressions they saw other bears produce during social play, copying with high precision not only the type of expression but also specific muscular movements such as raising their noses and wrinkling the bridge of their muzzles. Other than people, facial mimicry has been observed in gorillas, orangutans, two monkey species and domesticated dogs. Until now, only gorillas had been observed showing a degree of precision comparable to the complex facial mimicry of people. But the sun bears proved equally as sophisticated as the gorillas and comparable to people, the study found.
Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases. Story Source: Materials provided by University of Portsmouth. Smithsonian Channel. Mr Taylor said such subtle mimicking Bears facial be to help two bears signal that they are ready to play more roughly, or to strengthen social bonds. Read more: Scientific Reports.
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The world's smallest bears can exactly mimic another bear's facial expressions, casting doubt on humans and other primates' supremacy at this subtle form of communication. The researchers studied sun bears -- a solitary species in the wild, but also surprisingly playful -- for more than two years. They found bears can use facial expressions to communicate with others in a similar way to humans and apes, strongly suggesting other mammals might also be masters of this complex social skill and, in addition, have a degree of social sensitivity.
Dr Davila-Ross said: "Mimicking the facial expressions of others in exact ways is one of the pillars of human communication. Other primates and dogs are known to mimic each other, but only great apes and humans, and now sun bears, were previously known to show such complexity in their facial mimicry.
This, however, needs to be further investigated. In the wild, it's a relatively solitary animal, so this suggests the ability to communicate via complex facial expressions could be a pervasive trait in mammals, allowing them to navigate their societies. Facial mimicry is when an animal responds to another's facial expression with the same or similar expression. Mr Taylor coded the facial expressions of 22 sun bears in spontaneous social play sessions. The bears, aged , were housed in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Malaysia in which enclosures were large enough to allow bears to choose whether to interact or not.
Despite the bears' preference in the wild for a solitary life, the bears in this study took part in hundreds of play bouts, with more than twice as many gentle play sessions compared to rough play. During these encounters, the research team coded two distinct expressions -- one involving a display of the upper incisor teeth, and one without. Mr Taylor said such subtle mimicking could be to help two bears signal that they are ready to play more roughly, or to strengthen social bonds.
He said: "It is widely believed that we only find complex forms of communication in species with complex social systems. As sun bears are a largely solitary species, our study of their facial communication questions this belief, because it shows a complex form of facial communication that until now was known only in more social species. We know they live in tropical rainforests, eat almost everything, and that outside of the mating season adults have little to do with one another.
Sun bears, also known as honey bears, stand at cm tall and weigh up to 80kg. They are endangered and live in the tropical forests of south-east Asia. Social sophistication aside, sun bear numbers are dwindling due to deforestation, poaching and being killed by farmers for eating crops.
Increasingly, new mother bears are killed so their cub can be taken and raised as a pet or kept in captivity as 'bile bears' where their bile is harvested for use in some Chinese medicines. Previous research at the University of Portsmouth showed dogs alter their facial expressions if they know someone is looking at them.
Materials provided by University of Portsmouth. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Science News. It is the first time such exact facial mimicry has been seen outside of humans and gorillas. Story Source: Materials provided by University of Portsmouth. Scientific Reports , ; 9 1 DOI: ScienceDaily, 21 March University of Portsmouth. World's smallest bears' facial expressions throw doubt on human superiority: First time exact facial mimicry has been seen outside of humans and gorillas.
Retrieved October 29, from www. Researchers investigated one such signal, the 'leaf These facial expressions, called spontaneous smiles, are considered the evolutionary origin of real In addition, the facial expression alters Below are relevant articles that may interest you. ScienceDaily shares links with scholarly publications in the TrendMD network and earns revenue from third-party advertisers, where indicated. Boy or Girl? Living Well.
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World's smallest bears' facial expressions throw doubt on human superiority
Mandelbaum, the team spent two years observing 22 sun bears—aged 2 to 12 years—housed at the Bornean facility. Across recorded instances of play, the scientists spotted two main recurring facial expressions: One saw the animal raising its upper lip and nose to reveal the upper incisors, while the other found the bear opting to hide its teeth.
If one bear offered up a toothy grin, its partner mirrored the exact same movement 82 percent of the time; when a toothless expression was at play, mimicking occurred closer to 72 percent of the time.
Overall, the researchers report that the sun bears were more likely to reflect facial expressions during gentle, rather than rough, play. Although the creatures are notoriously solitary in the wild, New Scientist notes that the study points toward their use of facial mimicry to indicate readiness for rough play or building heightened social bonds. Compared to primates and dogs, sun bears are far less social, preferring to forge their own paths rather than settle down in large hierarchical groups.
Expanding on this thought in an interview with Buehler, she adds that the bears highlighted by the new paper live in a communal environment anathema to that seen in the wild. Given the close nature of these quarters, Palagi posits that the animals become familiar with each other and may find it easier to learn various social cues.
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