Why do monkeys like to spin? Probably for the same reasons as people.

Why do monkeys like to spin?  Probably for the same reasons as people.

In 2011, a gorilla named Zola gained internet fame when the Calgary Zoo posted a video showing him spinning in circles on his feet and heels with a huge smile on his face. Zola, the so-called break-dancing gorilla, returned in 2017, this time in a video that sees him zipping around a kiddie pool in which he rivals the most committed human dancer at an all-night rave.

Humans’ love of going in circles, especially in childhood, is evidenced by the enduring popularity of playground merry-go-rounds, spinning amusement park rides, and the irresistible draw of summersouting down the hill. But new research suggests that humans aren’t alone in their search for a spin-induced buzz.

According to findings published last month in the journal Primates, other great ape species also regularly enjoy having their senses stimulated by spinning, possibly even following altered mental states.

“Walking around to make ourselves dizzy is something we normally think of as a human activity,” said study author Marcus Perlman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Birmingham in England. “So it’s really nice to know that other primates do this too, and they do it for the same reason that babies do: because it’s fun and it’s fun.”

Dr. After Perlman saw Zola’s videos, he turned to YouTube to investigate whether other apes were involved in the behavior. He collected nearly 400 videos showing great apes and other primates engaged in spinning behaviors, including somersaulting, rolling down hills, backflipping, and pirouetting. But the new paper focuses on clips of monkeys moving on ropes or rope-like materials.

A primatologist and evolutionary psychologist at the University of Warwick in England, Dr. Perlman and Adriano Lemira found 132 instances of tightrope walking in 40 videos involving orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos. The video mostly featured captive apes, but some included wild mountain gorillas on vines.

The researchers calculated the speed at which the monkeys moved. Most monkeys, they found, rotated at an average rotation speed of 1.43 revolutions per second—a speed rivaling that of professionally trained human dancers and aerialists. The longest spin session lasted 28 revolutions, and the fastest — achieved by a bonobo — penetrated the brain at four revolutions per second.

The researchers observed that the longer the monkey wandered, the more it showed signs of dizziness, such as letting go of the rope and immediately sitting or lying down. Monkeys tended to repeat the process of spinning and stopping, engaging in an average of three spinnings per session.

Dr. The animals also often make “playful faces” while spinning, Perlman said, meaning they were mostly having fun in captivity rather than finding a way to relieve boredom.

“There’s something about the experience they enjoy,” Dr. Perlman said.

Kathryn Hobter, a primatologist at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, who was not involved in the research, agreed. Based on her observations in the field, she said, “wild monkeys love to spin.”

Monkeys and some other animals are known to engage in other activities that disturb the senses, including consuming fermented fruits containing alcohol and ingesting naturally occurring psychedelic substances. Whether this was done on purpose or by accident is up for debate, Dr. Perlman said. But studies like this can begin to provide the data needed to explore behaviors that may be evolutionary precursors to the human desire to experience altered mental states.

Dr. Perlman is planning a larger study that will analyze hundreds of additional videos of nonhuman primates spinning. It has also begun collecting evidence of other species, including grizzly bears and pandas, that appear to enjoy activities that can cause dizziness.

Mark Bekoff, an emeritus behavioral ecologist and cognitive ethologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who was not involved in the study, said that researching such behavior is valuable “because there is no a priori reason to think that we are the only animals involved in this study.” . Behaviors that intentionally produce an altered state of consciousness.” He added, “Systematic research will help us learn more about the taxonomy of getting high and not thinking that we are all unique.”

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