Gorillas cheat and use unfair tactics to get the upper hand when playing children’s games, scientists have discovered.

When playing a game of tag, the apes would hit their playmates and then rush away in order to gain the advantage, researchers at the University of Portsmouth found.

And the gorillas were able to distinguish between gentle touch and a rough hit which would provoke a greater reaction.

The research looked at how animals respond to unfair behaviour in natural social settings.

Dr Marina Davila Ross, who headed up the study, told Sky News Online:”Playing is an important platform for young individuals to develop and test their social, competitive and emotional skills.

“It is important to test your peers and see how they respond when you do something.

“Later on you may be dealing with the same individuals in different situations and you may know how they are likely to react.”

Dr Ross also said the study reveals a new opportunistic side to apes.

“Our findings on gorilla play show important similarities with the children’s game of tag,” she explained.

“Not only did the gorillas in our study hit their playmates and then run away chased by their playmates but they also switched their roles when hit so the chaser became the chased and vice versa.”

Dr Davila Ross, an expert in primate behaviour with special interest in play and laughter, said it is likely the lessons learned in play fighting helps apes deal with real conflict.

Unfair play behaviours are valuable because they allow apes, like humans, to test the limits of what is acceptable behaviour and to test their peers and even their parents.

“The ones that hit others can create their own equity, they try to keep their competitive advantage”, Dr Davila Ross told Sky News Online.

“Of course there are no rules in their game.”

The study involved examining videos of 21 gorillas from six colonies filmed over a period of three years in five European zoos.

Source: Sky News

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