Secret language of animal greetings


Among the Japanese macaques, the monkey that is lower in the hierarchy typically grooms the more senior monkey. Photo: 123rf.com

Animals that live in large social groups typically have complicated greeting rituals. Just like us, who greets whom, and exactly who does what, depends on age and social status.

Japanese macaques live in huge groups, sometimes with 100+ monkeys of several families and generations. Their greetings involve grunting and cooing, as well as grooming. Typically, the monkey that is lower in the hierarchy grooms the more senior monkey. Some pull faces and there may also be bowing!

Elephants have been hunted to the point where they are endangered. Today most live in groups of up to 20, with several older females leading their families. In the past, troops numbered scores. Elephants greet each other by touching trunks and rumbling greetings. They also lean against each other sometimes, and sniff – like very large dogs.

In the ocean, humpback whale pods can be small, with just a handful of adults, but some comprise scores of whales. These mammals sing to one another across hundreds, and maybe thousands, of miles. When they meet, they touch fins and sometimes swim against each other in a body hug. What is fun is that they blow bubbles, too! Scientists can’t tell if it’s communication or just a game that they play.

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