Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A happy life is a long one for orangutans

Date:
June 29, 2011
Source:
Society for Experimental Biology
Summary:
New research has shown that happier orangutans live longer which may provide insight into the evolution of happiness in humans. Researchers asked keepers who work with orangutans to answer questions about happiness on the animals' behalf. Orangutans which were scored as happier by their keepers were more likely to live longer.

Judgments of how "happy" captive orangutans are indicate how long they will live.
Credit: Richard Sonnen

New research has shown that happier orangutans live longer which may shed light on the evolution of happiness in humans.

Dr. Alexander Weiss and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Arizona, who are presenting their paper published in Royal Society journal Biology Letters at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Glasgow on July 3, 2011, used an innovative approach to assessing happiness by asking keepers who work with orangutans to answer questions on the animals' behalf.

The keepers were asked how often the orangutan was in a good mood as opposed to a bad mood, how much it enjoyed social interactions and whether it was effective at achieving its goals. The keepers were also asked to speculate as to how happy they would be if they were the animal in question.

Of the 184 orangutans included in the study those which were scored as happier by their keepers were significantly more likely to be alive up to seven years later. The effect remained even when factors such as sex, age and species were taken into account.

The Evolution of Happiness

These results could shed light on how happiness evolved, not just in orangutans but all primates, including ourselves. Dr. Weiss says "Already we have shown that certain personality traits linked to happiness share the same genetic basis in humans and chimpanzees. Studying these relationships across a wide range of species could yield fascinating insights into the evolutionary bases of happiness, depression and a host of other psychological characteristics that impact the lives of humans and, most likely, a range of other species."

One theory of how happiness evolved is sexual selection; a happier individual might be more attractive to the opposite sex because they are likely to live longer, and vice versa. Dr. Weiss suggests that in the future other researchers might look to dating websites for information, to discover whether the profiles of individuals who rate themselves as happier are more popular.

Although happiness has been linked to longer life in humans, and now orangutans, the basis for this is not well-understood. Dr. Weiss says: "It is unlikely that happiness causes longer life, the association is almost certainly more complex." The next step for scientists in understanding the importance of happiness in the lives of orangutans will be to assess whether happiness and health are governed by the same genes.

Animal Welfare Applications

This research also shows that the insight of orangutan keepers should be taken seriously as it can give vital information on the animal's well being.

Using simple questions like those in the current study would provide an efficient, low cost method of assessing the well being of orangutans in zoos all over the world. Monitoring orangutan health and well being in this way will help, says Dr. Weiss, "to ensure that orangutans too live 'happily ever after'."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Experimental Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Weiss, M. J. Adams, J. E. King. Happy orang-utans live longer lives. Biology Letters, 2011; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0543

Cite This Page:

Society for Experimental Biology. "A happy life is a long one for orangutans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110628191343.htm>.
Society for Experimental Biology. (2011, June 29). A happy life is a long one for orangutans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110628191343.htm
Society for Experimental Biology. "A happy life is a long one for orangutans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110628191343.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) The study weighs in on a debate over whether chimps are naturally violent or become that way due to human interference in the environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins