There is a big difference between human and animal laughter.
Smiling is often seen as a sign of happiness, and offers a number of significant health benefits. Up until now, we have often considered smiling as a behavior that only humans, or some primates, have. However, a recent scientific study has yielded a surprising result: There are dozens of different animals that also know how to laugh.
Accordingly, the research team including anthropologist Sasha Winkler and professor Greg Bryant of the University of California (USA) have collected recordings of different animals. These sounds were then analyzed and scrutinized, including loud or low pitch, prolonged or interrupted, high or low, monotonous or rhythmic.
Based on the above data, scientists discovered that up to 65 animals such as foxes, dogs, cows, seals, hyenas, mongooses, etc. can produce sounds similar to laughter. Most of the animals that can laugh are mammals, with the exception of a few birds that also exhibit a joyful “laugh”. However, scientists have not found evidence of ‘smiles’ in animals such as amphibians and reptiles.
Notably, there is a big difference between human and animal laughter. Usually when people smile, people are sending signals that they are happy and inviting others to have fun. With other animals, some previous studies have suggested that vocalizing behaviors such as smiles appear in many animals when they are playing. However, research conducted by a team of scientists at the University of California shows that the “laughter” of each animal is different, as not all animals emit laughter when they are happy. Instead, some animals make laughter-like sounds to express emotions and warn opponents.
For example, hyenas often laugh when they feel threatened or simply when they are upset. Interestingly enough, older hyenas tend to emit laughter’ in the low-pitched, while younger hyenas often “laugh” with a more varied and higher-pitched sound.
Meanwhile, with some types of play behavior that looks like fighting, animals may chirp or laugh during play to keep the action…from escalating!
The team thinks that in-depth studies on the emission of sounds in nature will be very helpful. This helps us better understand the morphology and function of laughter in humans and its role in the evolution of social behavior.