Smiles and giggles are one of the first social behaviors a baby develops. Infants start laughing as early as 12 weeks of age - before they can walk, crawl, or even eat solid foods. This is because laughter is an important aspect of humanity, it’s a way to connect with others and communicate positive emotions.
It turns out that humans are not alone. Some animals laugh to express happiness too, and it’s now a scientifically-proven fact. In a recent review study from UCLA, scientists have been able to confirm 65 species of animals who have their own kind of laughter.
Among the animals officially said to possess this unique quality were primates, monkeys, foxes, seals, rats, and dogs! Although let’s be honest, dog owners have known that their pooches smile when they’re happy for ages. Still, it’s nice that scientists are finally “catching up.”
For a full list of 65 animals, which the scientists declared capable of laughter, read the full scientific article here: Play vocalizations and human laughter: a comparative review.
Most animals make laughter-like vocalizations when they play with each other to communicate good intentions and non-aggression. Interestingly, many of these vocalizations differ a lot from human laughter and vary in volume, pitch, and length depending on the species. The giggles of chimps and other primates sound more familiar to the ear (see video below for the cutest demonstration by a baby bonobo). Primates are just closer to us evolutionarily, so their laughter is easier for us to register and comprehend.
That is not to say, however, that other mammals and even some birds are incapable of laughter. For example, both cows and parakeets show up on the study’s list of “laughing animals.” This suggests that laughter is a much older biological skill and one that we possibly share with many other animals beyond those listed in the study.
The laughs of some animals species can be quite tough to detect. To chase down the giggles of rats, for example, researchers at the Humboldt University of Berlin had to be equipped with special acoustic gear. That’s because rats laugh at an ultrasonic level, meaning that their chuckles are registered above the upper limit of human hearing. To generate rat giggles, the researchers had to tickle the rats, what a great job for animal lovers! Play the video below to view the entire process and hear cute rat giggles.
The researchers were also able to establish that rats produce similar squeaks whenever they are happy: when they receive a treat or socialize with other rats. Similar findings were also established in other animals, which seems to suggest that laughter is a widespread expression of happiness in the animal kingdom. Finally, a study that makes us all smile!
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H/T: My Modern Met