December 10, 2015
In 2009, a pair of researchers, including Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh, published a controversial study claiming that orangutans, not chimpanzees, are the closest living relatives of human beings.
The study called into question what the researchers deemed a limited DNA analysis cited by those in the chimpanzee camp. They argue that the genetic similarities between humans and chimps reflect ancient traits shared by many in the animal kingdom. Conversely, the researchers said they identified at least 28 unique traits shared by humans and orangutans, called synapomorphies, which suggest orangutans are more like us than chimps.
In the quest to conclusively prove who is our closest primate friend, we now have a hilarious video to record as evidence.
An orangutan living in a sanctuary at the Barcelona Zoo got a good laugh this week when an amateur magician surprised him with a magic trick from outside his glass enclosure. A video of the encounter, taken by a fellow zoo visitor, racked up nearly 4.5 million views in just a few days.
The trick itself? It's pretty funny, not bad. As for animals laughing, multiple "tickle" experiments suggest that they do, in fact, get giggly when prompted by the right stimuli, according to National Geographic.
Maybe this orangutan's reaction was sarcastic. He just has that look. If it could ever be proven, that would represent the holy grail of animal experimentation.