We humans are lucky to have laughter as a spontaneous expression of happiness or surprise – but we’re not the only ones.
A laugh-like sound is also found among the great apes – chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. If you tickle a chimp, it’ll make a panting noise that sounds like a handsaw cutting wood. It’s not much like our typical human laugh, but many scientists – dating back to Darwin – agree that this breathy sound of a chimp is a laugh. In both humans and apes, laughter is an important form of communication – a social signal of safety and a way of conveying exuberance and good-naturedness.
But does a laugh have to make a sound? When dogs play, for example, they wag their tails and bounce with joy.
Most mammals have some way of showing playfulness. If laughter is simply a bursting forth of pleasure, then it’s a behavior we share with most warm-blooded creatures.
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