The Three Apes
For more in depth information about ape body language consult: Ape Gestures and Language by Amy S. Pollick and Frans B.M. de Waal of Atlanta University. The study focuses on how human language may have its origin in animal body language rather than in verbal signals, but it contains a lot of gesture explanations.
An international gesture in human body language is that of beggars, who sit or stand with their arm outstretched, open palm up, asking for money or food. Apes are prone to make a lot of hand and body gestures. An ape which stretches out its open palm is either also asking for food or signaling an invitation for sex to the opposite sex.
An outstretched hand in a human, often as preliminary to a hand shake, signals openness and friendliness. An ape doing the same will make a peace offer or just signal that it is not aggressive.
Humans automatically raise their hands and cover their ears to indicate too much noise or that they don't want to hear any more of what's said to them or what's going on around them. Apes do exactly the same.
When apes gesture, they use their right hand. It's controlled by the left side of the brain, which in humans, is the location of the nerve center for language. It would be interesting to find out if there are left handed apes where the brain functions would be reversed.
Apes have a vivid facility for facial expressions. For most other animals, showing their teeth is a gesture of aggression. Not so for apes. Like humans, apes can smile. It's a sign of submission, of wanting to be friendly and non-threatening. Apes also can emit a lopsided smirk by pulling up only one side of the mouth. Just as in humans a smirk indicates insolence and arrogance.
Flared nostrils express dissatisfaction. Humans take in a deep breath, their nostrils extend and they indicate by the gesture : I've had enough.' Apes do the same. Flared nostrils in an ape indicate that they are about to attack.
Humans express a wide range of emotions with their eyes. Sadness, joy and fear are shown by opening eyes wide, narrowing them or half closing them. Apes have huge eyes and just like humans, are able to express their feelings and emotions through them. Like no other animal, apes are even able to roll their eyes.