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Facial complexity in sun bears: exact facial mimicry and social sensitivity

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Facial mimicry is a central feature of human social interactions. Although it has been evidenced in other mammals, no study has yet shown that this phenomenon can reach the level of precision seem in humans and gorillas. Here, we studied the facial complexity of group-housed sun bears, a typically solitary species, with special focus on testing for exact facial mimicry. Our results provided evidence that the bears have the ability to mimic the expressions of their conspecifics and that they do so by matching the exact facial variants they interact with. In addition, the data showed the bears produced the open-mouth faces predominantly when they received the recipient’s attention, suggesting a degree of social sensitivity. Our finding questions the relationship between communicative complexity and social complexity, and suggests the possibility that the capacity for complex facial communication is phylogenetically more widespread than previously thought.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4961
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2019

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