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These bears mimic each other’s faces as well as people do

If even mammals that evolved for a life of relative solitude can interact this way, then facial mimicry may not be an elite, social trait at all. Perhaps complex social interactions are more widespread among mammals than we thought.

JAKE BUEHLER: ‘In social interactions, our faces can become like mirrors, reflecting subtle expressions back at our conversation partner… We aren’t alone among animals in the use of facial communication, but our degree of finesse and precision had only been seen in our relatives, gorillas. Now, researchers have recently uncovered this social superpower in another species, one very different from hyper-social apes—the sun bear… Sun bears are the world’s smallest bears…

They’re not exactly antisocial, but sun bears mostly opt to go their own ways, says Marina Davila-Ross, a comparative psychologist at the University of Portsmouth and senior author on the study… Apes and dogs are social butterflies compared to sun bears, so the bears possessing such complex facial communication skills is unexpected. Evolutionarily speaking, the bears aren’t closely related to dogs, and far less so to apes, so it’s not even a relic of kinship. This finding raises the possibility that sun bears—and other solitary species—can interact with each other in more complex ways than we thought…

It’s this solitary nature that makes the discovery of sun bears’ facial mimicry prowess so unexpected. The findings suggest that sophisticated social skills like facial mimicry aren’t limited to species that are inherently social. If even mammals that evolved for a life of relative solitude can interact this way, then facial mimicry may not be an elite, social trait at all. Perhaps complex social interactions are more widespread among mammals than we thought’. SOURCE…

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