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Gorilla moms use 'baby talk' with infants

June 12, 2012 at 6:34 PM   |   Comments

LEIPZIG, Germany, June 12 (UPI) -- Mother gorillas use a sort of "baby talk" in their facial and hand gestures when communicating with their infants, European researchers say.

Eva Maria Luef from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, filmed 120 hours of footage of gorillas at Leipzig Zoo and two wild animal parks in Britain, the BBC reported Tuesday.

The footage showed adult female gorillas used more tactile gestures than they used with other adults when playing with infants and would "touch, stroke and lightly slap" the young gorillas, Luef said.

"The infants also received more repetition," Luef said.

This motherly communication, or "non-vocal motherese," helps the infants learn the repertoire of signals they will use as adults when communicating with the rest of the gorilla group, the researchers said.

"It also shows that older animals possess a certain awareness of the infants' immature communication skills," Luef said.

The research has been published in the American Journal of Primatology.

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