We have been taught that kissing is something you do when saying hello and goodbye, when dating potential suitors, or when in a relationship.
Touch with the lips as a sign of love, sexual desire, respect, or greeting is something well familiar in humans, but what’s the situation when it comes to monkeys? Do monkeys kiss?
Yes, some species of monkeys kiss. Baboons and patas will often make communication gestures called lip-smacking which can turn into a simple contact with the lips. This usually happens between adult female monkeys and young infants.
When it comes to romantic french kissing, this is not something that monkeys do. Passionate kissing on the lips is a behavior characteristical mostly among humans and some apes (chimps and bonobos), not monkeys.
Lip-smacking, particularly pronounced in baboons and less noticeable in other monkeys, is considered a friendly gesture with just a slight sexual motivation and more connected with grooming, socialization, and mother-infant bonding.
Lipsmacking in monkeys looks like quickly opening and closing the mouth, causing the lips to smack together and make a noise.
Stump-tail macaques, monkeys native to South Asia and Southeast Asia, will use kissing to solve conflicts and make peace. One macaque will place its lips on the other’s mouth, often with some licking and smelling.
Among bonnet monkeys native to India, mothers with young babies form a strong bond with their young and even take care of babies of other bonnets. They can be often seen kissing the baby of another female with her own baby clinging to her.
In a study at the National Institute of Health in Maryland, researchers studied 14 monkey mother-infant pairs and discovered that macaque mothers will often gaze intently at their newborns, lipsmack, and even touch the infant’s face with their mouths. This is something that very much resembles the kiss humans share among themselves.
Do Monkeys Kiss Humans?
Despite sharing kisses among their own species, monkeys rarely kiss humans. In the wild, it might seem like the monkey wants to kiss you, but you will end up getting bitten.
According to the World Health Organization 2018 report, monkey bites account for up to 20% of animal bite injuries; second only to dogs.
However, not all monkeys are made the same.
In a wildlife sanctuary in Bolivia, one red howler monkey became an expert in hugging and kissing humans. It can be often seen showing his appreciation of the volunteers there by climbing on them and lip-kissing them.
Still, the chances of a monkey kissing a human are rare – the only way of that happening is if a human keeps the animal as a pet and they form a special bond.
Read More: Do Animals Have G-Spots?
How Do Monkeys Show Affection?
Besides kisses, lip-smacks, and smooches, monkeys will hug and groom each other. Grooming shows affection and respect among monkeys. It reduces tension by lowering the heart rate and releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones that are calming. Monkeys will also hug to create stronger bonds.
Scientists discovered that grooming (or allogrooming when done between members of the same species) not only removes debris and parasites, but also leads to better tolerance, social support, mating advantage, and stronger bonding between individuals of a monkey group.
The length of grooming will depend on the social rank of a monkey in its group – the higher the rank of a macaque or a capuchin female, the more grooming it will receive.
Spider monkeys found in tropical forests of Central and South America will use hugging to recover from conflicts but also to prevent them. After weeks of observing these primates, scientists discovered that they will approach and embrace each other more often during tense situations – when monkey groups fuse together or when reuniting.
A monkey that has a problem with another monkey will hug and show its affection – hugging is used as a “means of proactive damage control” and a way of managing conflicting situations.
Crested black macaques will ask for hugs by smacking their lips while the Tonkean macaque monkeys will give consoling hugs to one another after a fight – this may even be accompanied by a kiss.
We all know that kisses might lead to other things, and eventually result in a baby. Yes, it seems a bit exaggerated, but bear with us. Now, for a monkey to have a baby, the “act” needs to happen during the ovulation stage. Make sure to read more about the menstrual cycle of monkeys.
They are small, cute, and banana-loving animals. Monkeys, together with chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans, are among the only species that will make lip contact and kiss. Sometimes it might be a sign of affection between a mother monkey and her juvenile, in other cases, it is a way of bonding and resolving conflicts.
Besides showing affection with kisses, monkeys are known to groom and hug members of their species. This improves respect among these primates, reduces conflicts, and is something humans should try to do more with their own species.
Ever wondered if monkeys sweat as we do? Read more about it here.