Great apes not only communicate vocally, but also with a relatively larger and more flexible repertoire of gestures. Gestures are movements of the limbs or body that are not mechanically effective. Great apes deploy gestures intentionally to communicate in close proximity social interactions. Most studies on great ape gestural communication have been carried out in captivity; the most extensive wild study has been on chimpanzees.
My PhD research, supervised by Prof Richard Byrne, will catalogue the full gestural repertoire of wild bonobos. I will examine individual differences in repertoire size and usage. Most importantly, I will be able to define the meaning of each gesture type by determining the reaction given by the recipient that satisfies the signaller. Understanding meanings or ambiguity of meanings for wild bonobo gestural communication may provide insights into the evolution of our own complex communication system.