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Tinder for Orangutans: Dutch Researchers Use Tablets to Gauge Apes’ Preferences for Potential Mates

Feb 01, 2017 07:54 AM EST
If humans can enjoy swiping right, why can't apes too?
(Photo : Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)

Tinder is not just revolutionizing the dating scene for humans -- it's taking over the animal world too. According to a report from Phys Org, an animal reserve in the Netherlands is getting apes to respond to images of other apes in a tablet. It's not quite swiping right just yet, but their reactions speak volumes about their preferences for potential mates.

Researchers conducted the study on orangutans and bonobos at the Apenheul Primate Park, in cooperation with Leiden University. The goal of the four-year experiment is to ultimately improve the breeding programs for the animals in the park.

The team started out by showing orangutans and bonobos photographs of other apes. They then assessed their responses from neutral to aggressive.

Bonobos were shown to react most strongly to images that showed positive behavior including sexual activity or grooming each other for lice. The park pointed out that this indicates that the species recognize emotions through body language.

The zoo's behavioral biologist, Thomas Bionda, explained to Dutch publication NOS that the team hopes to learn more about how female apes choose their mates, a report from The Guardian revealed. The "Tinder" program could also increase the success rate of encounters by determining pre-encounter which male the females prefer.

"Often, animals have to be taken back to the zoo they came from without mating," Bionda said. "Things don't always go well when a male and a female first meet."

Results could also be valuable in determining whether appearance plays a significant role in attraction between two animals. Much like with humans, there are other factors involved that can affect the compatibility of two individuals.

Bionda pointed out, "This is completely digital, of course. Usually, smell plays an important role too. But with the orangutans, it will be what you see is what you get."

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