“Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow”, But Only For Humans?

Research Article

William C. McGrew & Lucy Baehren

Human Ethology Bulletin, Volume 31, No 4, 5-14, published December 30, 2016
DOI: https://doi.org/10.22330/heb/314/005-014

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“Parting is such sweet sorrow…” (Shakespeare, 1599)



Homo sapiens show greeting rituals when they meet and leave-taking rituals when they part. Presumably this reflects the species’ fission-fusion social organisation, and such displays show notably symmetrical form and content. But what about non-humans? Here we seek in our nearest living relations (Pan troglodytes) these behavioural complexes in two ways: We report frequencies of meeting and parting in daily life and solicit data on greeting and leave-taking from field sites of long-term study of these apes. Chimpanzees greet emphatically but show no leave-taking behaviour. This lack of symmetry in our nearest living relations (as well as in other animals) suggests that human greeting and leave-taking may be unique.

Keywords: Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, greeting, parting, fission-fusion social system, human uniqueness.

ISSN: 2224-4476