Great apes roll over on purpose to get dizzy, researchers say

Great apes roll around on purpose to make themselves dizzy, researchers have said.

The behavior could provide clues as to why people developed the desire to seek out altered states of mind, a University of Warwick scientist said.

It raised the possibility that this trait came from our ancestors, he added.

Academics examined videos of gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans spinning in circles to come to their conclusion.

“If this were indeed the case, it would have tremendous implications for how we think about modern human cognitive abilities and emotional needs,” said Dr. Adriano Lameira, Associate Professor of Psychology at Warwick University, who co-led the study.

The research team examined a viral video of a male gorilla spinning in a pool and other online videos of monkeys engaging in spinning behaviors.

Analysis showed that the monkeys rotated at an average speed of 1.5 revolutions per second. In many of the videos, the primates rotated using ropes or vines, and in these they rotated the fastest and the longest.

“Spinning alters our state of consciousness, throwing off our body-mind responsiveness and coordination, making us feel sick, light-headed and even elated, as in the case of children playing in roundabouts, spinning wheels and merry-go-rounds,” said Dr. Lameira.

He continued, “If all great apes seek dizziness, then most likely our ancestors did, too.

“We asked ourselves what role these behaviors play when it comes to the emergence of the human mind.”

The apes did it on purpose, as if the dancing and the parallel between human and ape behavior was more than coincidental, he said.

The monkeys became noticeably dizzy on the third spin and would likely lose their balance and fall.

“This would suggest that although the primates begin to feel the effects of dizziness, they continue to roll on purpose until they are unable to maintain their balance,” said Dr. Marcus Perlman from the University of Birmingham, who co-led the study.

Further research was needed to understand primate motivations for such behavior.

“There may be a mental health link here, as the primates we observed exhibiting this behavior were mostly captive individuals who may be bored and trying to stimulate their senses in some way,” said Dr. Lameira, adding that this could also be a “gambling behavior”.

The research was published in Primates magazine.

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