Not here, there! Possible referential gesturing during allogrooming by wild bonnet macaques, Macaca radiata
Intentional referential gestures, a fundamental building block of symbolic human language, have been reported from a range of species, including non-human primates. While apes are known to spontaneously use intentional gestures, only captive macaques, amongst non-ape primates, appear to intentionally display learnt gestures. On the other hand, referential gestures have so far been reported only in chimpanzees, amongst non-human primates. We document here, for the first time, potentially referential gesturing, used intentionally as well, in a monkey species, the bonnet macaque Macaca radiata, in the wild. Bonnet macaques use four distinct actions during allogrooming, possibly to indicate a particular body part intended to be groomed. These acts were successful in drawing the recipients’ attention to the indicated part, which they began to groom subsequently. This study enriches our understanding of non-ape primate gestural communication and adds to the growing evidence for early human language-like capacities in non-human species.