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PLOS ONE  2012 

Male Yawning Is More Contagious than Female Yawning among Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040697

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Abstract:

Yawn contagion is not restricted to humans and has also been reported for several non-human animal species, including chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Contagious yawning may lead to synchronisation of behaviour. However, the function of contagious yawning is relatively understudied. In this study, we investigated the function of contagious yawning by focusing on two types of signal providers: close social associates and leaders. We provided a captive chimpanzee colony with videos of all individuals of their own group that were either yawning, or at rest. Consistent with other studies, we demonstrated that yawning is contagious for chimpanzees, yet we did not find any effect of relationship quality on yawn contagion. However, we show that yawn contagion is significantly higher when the video model is a yawning male than when the video model was a yawning female, and that this effect is most apparent among males. As males are dominant in chimpanzee societies, male signals may be more relevant to the rest of the group than female signals. Moreover, since chimpanzees form male-bonded societies, male signals are especially relevant for other males. Therefore, we suggest that the sex-differences of yawning contagion among chimpanzees reflect the function of yawning in the synchronisation of behaviour.

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