Inter-individual coordination in walking chimpanzees.
Humans, like many other animals, live in groups and coordinate actions with others in social settings. Such interpersonal coordination may emerge unconsciously and when the goal is not the coordination of movements, as when falling into the same rhythm when walking together. Although one of our closest living relatives, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), shows the ability to succeed in complex joint action tasks where coordination is the goal, little is known about simpler forms of joint action. Here, we examine whether chimpanzees spontaneously synchronize their actions with conspecifics while walking together. We collected data on individual walking behavior of two groups of chimpanzees under semi-natural conditions. In addition, we assessed social relationships to investigate potential effects on the strength of coordination. When walking with a conspecific, individuals walked faster than when alone. The relative phase was symmetrically distributed around 0° with the highest frequencies around 0, indicating a tendency to coordinate actions. Further, coordination was stronger when walking with a partner compared with two individuals walking independently. Although the inter-limb entrainment was more pronounced between individuals of similar age as a proxy for height, it was not affected by the kinship or bonding status of the walkers or the behaviors they engaged in immediately after the walk. We conclude that chimpanzees adapt their individual behavior to temporally coordinate actions with others, which might provide a basis for engaging in other more complex forms of joint action. This spontaneous form of inter-individual coordination, often called entrainment, is thus shared with humans.