It seems that our biological cousins, the ape, were the first to laugh and have the ability to chuckle.
The study, led by Dr Marina Davila Ross, a scientist at the psychology department of University of Portsmouth, found that orang-utans have a sense of empathy and mimicry, which is essential for laughter.
AdvertisementIn the study, the researchers examined the way facial expressions were picked up and copied by 25 orang-utans at four primate centres around the world.
After citing one of the orang-utans displaying an open, gaping mouth, which was the equivalent of laughter, the scientists reviewed the response of its playmate.
Ross said that often the playmate exhibited the same expression less than half a second later, suggesting that the mimicry was an involuntary display.
She said that the findings shed new light on empathy and its importance for animals, who live in groups.
She further explained that the study reveals empathy of positive emotions or contagious laughter evolved before humans.
"What is clear now is the building blocks of positive emotional contagion and empathy that refer to rapid involuntary facial mimicry in humans evolved prior to humankind," the Telegraph quoted her, as saying.
The study is published in the journal Biology Letters.