How do you graph the evolution of a laugh? Of humor? Researchers found that the patterns fit a classic evolutionary tree.
Those patterns hint at the ancient origins of human hilarity and suggest that other social species – including apes, dogs, cats, and rats – really, truly laugh and have a sense of humor as well.
“What we can say is that laughter and humor go back at least 10 to 16 million years,” said University of Portsmouth primatologist Marina Davila Ross, one of the researchers behind the study published online today in the journal Current Biology. “It could go farther than that.”
A prominent researcher in the specialized field of animal laughter, Jaaaak Panksepp of Washington State College University, said it definitely goes farther back than that. “I personally think that a credible humor concept can, and already has been, extended to species as lowly as the rat,” he told me in an e-mail. The following is a breakdown of humor in different species:
Chimps-Enjoy sarcasm and political humor, especially Art Buchwald.
Gorillas-The majority of gorillas appreciate a well executed pratfall and respond favorably to the films of Ingmar Bergman (the funny ones)
Dogs-are big fans of knock-knock jokes with the exception Labrador retrievers who have a fondness for parody
Wolves-An unsubstantiated report claims that certain Alaskan Grey Wolves will don a funny hat during times of tension within the pack to calm things down
Rats– tests have indicated that the majority of rats respond well to the comic strip Family Circus.
Cats-The Don Rickles of the animal kingdom, cats favor insult humor, and racist jokes. They also have a tendency to work “blue” when children are about.