Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chimpanzee develops automatic mango peeler while competing in belt sander races

OK. Not quite.

But chimpanzees certainly have capabilities we did not think possible because of a chauvinistic belief in a unique human primacy.
A team led by Christophe Boesch of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, studied chimps living in Loango National Park in Gabon. They found that the chimps built and used five different types of tools to help them find beehives and extract honey: thin, straight sticks to probe the ground for buried nests; thick, blunt-ended pounders to break open beehive entrances; thinner lever-like enlargers to break down walls within the hive; collectors with frayed ends to dip honey from the opened hive and bark spoons to scoop it out. Various tools were often found near the same hive, suggesting that the chimps employ them in sequence (Journal of Human Evolution, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.04.001).

A few tools even appeared to have two uses, with enlargers at one end and collectors at the other. This is the first example of a non-human species constructing multipurpose tools.

We already know that chimpanzees have a solid sense of self-recognition.

No one is even suggesting that humans are evolved from the great apes. But more and more it appears that we came from a common origin. And it is becoming clear that chimpanzees, in particular, pass on gained knowledge to their offspring further developing a culture.

Give them a few hundred thousand years and they'll be chiselling stone, stacking it up and making an edifice that will confuse their own centuries later.

Regrettably, they will likely go through a phase during which the only way they will be able to explain things to themselves will be to invent a mythical higher power. Hopefully, they will grow out of that faster than their bipedal cousins have.

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