Researches find poop-throwing by chimps is a sign of intelligence

Nov 30, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
Common chimpanzee in the Leipzig Zoo. Image credit: Thomas Lersch, via Wikipedia.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A lot of people who have gone to the zoo have become the targets of feces thrown by apes or monkeys, and left no doubt wondering about the so-called intellectual capacity of a beast that would resort to such foul play. Now however, researchers studying such behavior have come to the conclusion that throwing feces, or any object really, is actually a sign of high ordered behavior. Bill Hopkins of Emory University and his colleagues have been studying the whole process behind throwing and the impact it has on brain development, and have published their results in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Hopkins and his team have focused their research on , mainly due they say, to the fact that are our closet living relative and that they are the only other species besides humans that regularly throw things with a clear target in mind. He and his team have been watching chimps in action for several years and comparing their actions with scans of their brains to see if there were any correlations between those chimps that threw a lot, and those that didn’t or whether they’re accuracy held any deeper meaning. Surprisingly, they found that chimps that both threw more and were more likely to hit their targets showed heightened development in the motor cortex, and more connections between it and the Broca’s area, which they say is an important part of speech in humans. The better chimp throwers, in other words, had more highly developed left brain hemispheres, which is also, non-coincidently, where speech processing occurs in people.

Such findings led the term to suggest that the ability to throw is, or was, a precursor to speech development in human beings.

After making their discovery regarding the parts of the brain that appear to be involved in better throwing in chimps, the team tested the chimps and found that those that could throw better also appeared to be better communicators within their group, giving credence to their idea that speech and throwing are related. Interestingly, they also found that the better throwing chimps didn’t appear to posses any more physical prowess than other chimps, which the researchers suggest means that throwing didn’t develop as a means of hunting, but as a form of communication within groups, i.e. throwing stuff at someone else became a form of self expression, which is clearly evident to anyone who has ever been targeted by a chimp locked up in a zoo.

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More information: The neural and cognitive correlates of aimed throwing in chimpanzees: a magnetic resonance image and behavioural study on a unique form of social tool use, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 12 January 2012 vol. 367 no. 1585 37-47, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0195

Abstract
It has been hypothesized that neurological adaptations associated with evolutionary selection for throwing may have served as a precursor for the emergence of language and speech in early hominins. Although there are reports of individual differences in aimed throwing in wild and captive apes, to date there has not been a single study that has examined the potential neuroanatomical correlates of this very unique tool-use behaviour in non-human primates. In this study, we examined whether differences in the ratio of white (WM) to grey matter (GM) were evident in the homologue to Broca's area as well as the motor-hand area of the precentral gyrus (termed the KNOB) in chimpanzees that reliably throw compared with those that do not. We found that the proportion of WM in Broca's homologue and the KNOB was significantly higher in subjects that reliably throw compared with those that do not. We further found that asymmetries in WM within both brain regions were larger in the hemisphere contralateral to the chimpanzee's preferred throwing hand. We also found that chimpanzees that reliably throw show significantly better communication abilities than chimpanzees that do not. These results suggest that chimpanzees that have learned to throw have developed greater cortical connectivity between primary motor cortex and the Broca's area homologue. It is suggested that during hominin evolution, after the split between the lines leading to chimpanzees and humans, there was intense selection on increased motor skills associated with throwing and that this potentially formed the foundation for left hemisphere specialization associated with language and speech found in modern humans.

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User comments : 44

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Isaacsname
5 / 5 (11) Nov 30, 2011
Yes, but one critical question is not asked.

Why do they only throw poo at us and not each other ?

Put that in your philosophy pipe and smoke it.
NotAsleep
4.6 / 5 (10) Nov 30, 2011
I want the writeup for the request for funding on this SOOOO BAD!

So based on this study, who in Congress has the most intelligence?
Guy_Underbridge
5 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2011
So based on this study, who in Congress has the most intelligence?

I can only say that I've yet to hear or read of Congressmen or Parliamentarians flinging poo...
..so I guess the Chimps win.
jimbam666
5 / 5 (4) Nov 30, 2011
some human prisoners do this also, probley for the same reason, they cant reach the targets any other way
Royale
5 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2011
I couldn't even bring myself to read this article. The title just made me laugh hysterically at work, so I thought I'd mention it.
gwrede
3.5 / 5 (8) Nov 30, 2011
Congressmen are famous for flinging poo. Especially before elections.

Sinister1811
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 30, 2011
Crap throwing is a sign of intelligence? Who'd have thought it?
Tausch
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 30, 2011
Chimps are more evolved.
If only shoes (Muntadhar al-Zaidi) were poo, then the playing field becomes level. We have a lot to learn.
FrankHerbert
1.2 / 5 (62) Nov 30, 2011
I believe (though I've never seen an actual statistic, have heard it many times though) that the prison population is, on average, more intelligent than the citizenry. I'm sure most people are aware of "chemical warfare" within our penitentiaries.

Maybe throwing one's feces is a sign of extreme outrage at one's conditions, which maybe correlated with higher intelligence.
tadchem
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 30, 2011
I would think it is more importantly a sign of the presence of hands.
mykyl
5 / 5 (5) Nov 30, 2011
Poop throwing I can handle, you just have to step out of range, but there's no way they're living in my closet. (Paragraph 1. Line 2).
SincerelyTwo
2.7 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2011
Obviously these monkeys aren't very happy about being confined to small areas, practically prisoners, stared at regularly by strange creatures which are constantly point at or mocking them. Seems blatantly obvious that these monkeys are emotionally upset and dissatisfied with their lives in these places.

Sure, we on the other side know that many of these species are being hunted to extinction, but they're practically dead in zoo's as well, nothing that represents or lets them exercise their true nature.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. :D
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2011
Well, I've said it before, I'll say it again, there is no limit to the value of compassion aside from the one we decide on.

Can you imagine how foolish we'll look to the humans 100 or 500 years in the future, in regards to how we once chose to define things like intelligence, sentience and self-awareness in the world around us ?

We will learn a great deal from nature in the future, you can bank on it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 30, 2011
Yes, but one critical question is not asked.

Why do they only throw poo at us and not each other ?

Put that in your philosophy pipe and smoke it.
Because we dont belong to their tribe. We are the enemy.
Callippo
1.8 / 5 (10) Nov 30, 2011
Crap throwing is a sign of intelligence? Who'd have thought it?
Many people here are doing it at verbal level with their opponents in discussion. But I do agree, this research is just plain silly. It deserves Ig Nobel price and an ultimate cut of grant support.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 30, 2011
Wow, and here I though that only Republicans threw their dung.

Amazing.
Vendicar_Decarian
2 / 5 (4) Nov 30, 2011
Libertarians on the other hand don't throw dung. They just try to smear you with pro corporate crap.

MarkyMark
not rated yet Dec 01, 2011
Crap throwing is a sign of intelligence? Who'd have thought it?
Many people here are doing it at verbal level with their opponents in discussion. But I do agree, this research is just plain silly. It deserves Ig Nobel price and an ultimate cut of grant support.

As apposed to what you support right? Now what was that?

cough cold fusion cough
MarkyMark
5 / 5 (2) Dec 01, 2011

YOU MUST NOT MISS IT!!!

does this count as virtuall poo?
Isaacsname
not rated yet Dec 01, 2011
http://www.coldba...oles.gif

You have to wonder, if the roles were reversed....
jheim
not rated yet Dec 01, 2011
I have read that the Neanderthals did not throw their spears,while Homeo Sapins did. Is it righ? And is this another hint of a connetion between throwing and intelectual capasities?
jheim
not rated yet Dec 01, 2011
I just read the comments on this article. Have you read the abstract? Are you interested in research at all?
Rdavid
not rated yet Dec 01, 2011
Conclusions regarding left brain hemispheres but no mention of left- or right-handedness of throwers.
jheim
not rated yet Dec 01, 2011
Abstract says: "We further found that asymmetries in WM within both brain regions were larger in the hemisphere contralateral to the chimpanzee's preferred throwing hand". Is this what is foundin humans as well?
Mike_Stark
1 / 5 (2) Dec 01, 2011
Huh. Have the researchers studied Republicans? Can the results be extrapolated to infer intelligence from their poop-flinging? Might they one day evolve a more advanced form of intelligence?
Isaacsname
not rated yet Dec 01, 2011

The moral of this story

~ Intelligence is determined not by whether or not you throw your brand of poo, but by who you throw your poo at.

:D
deatopmg
2.1 / 5 (7) Dec 01, 2011
what is the chimps response if human poo is thrown back at the thrower?
bugmenot23
1 / 5 (2) Dec 02, 2011
It's hard to believe that fling your own excrement at anyone to be a sign of intelligence. Scientist can be crazy sometimes. If that's smart, than Black Friday shoppers spraying people with pepper spray must be genius: http://lawblog.le...ry-jail/
DavidMcC
not rated yet Dec 02, 2011
"It is suggested that during hominin evolution, after the split between the lines leading to chimpanzees and humans, there was intense selection on increased motor skills associated with throwing and that this potentially formed the foundation for left hemisphere specialization associated with language and speech found in modern humans."
It may, however, have been millions of years after the split, possibly at about 2.5MYa, when our lineage's brain size first started to increase (Homo habilis - "handy man"), probably as we started to spend more time on savannah. Other skills than throwing would also have been developing at that time, however (eg, tool-making).
Hal_McCombs
1 / 5 (3) Dec 02, 2011
Quote: "the fact that chimps are our closet living relative"

I think they should come out of the closet, and admit they're just animals.
Hal_McCombs
1 / 5 (2) Dec 02, 2011
Huh. Have the researchers studied Republicans? Can the results be extrapolated to infer intelligence from their poop-flinging? Might they one day evolve a more advanced form of intelligence?


I get it. Self-reliance is a sign of low intelligence. Well maybe someday we too will evolve into better people. People who crap in parks and sponge off others. Keep a good thought there, Padre.
Callippo
1 / 5 (3) Dec 03, 2011
I'm not sure, if the poop throwing is the sign of the high intelligence. For example, the camels and goat are using to spit at the unsympathetic objects. It's rather the aggressiveness, than the manifestation of individualistic personality.

http://www.youtub...Bt2cbcc8

The higher is the fitness of animals, the more selfconfident, if not aggressive the animals are, which could explain the positive correlation of poop throwing with the size of their brains. They're simply behave as an alpha males, so they've everything bigger.

But as we know from real life, the most aggressive males aren't always these most smarter ones.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (4) Dec 04, 2011
Chimp poo...the original Improvised Explosive Device! :D
Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 05, 2011
"I get it. Self-reliance is a sign of low intelligence." - Hal

No. Those who claim that they are self reliant are of low intelligence.

I have never met anyone who has claimed to be self reliant who doesn't wear shoes made by someone else, using glue invented by someone else, plastics extruded by someone else, leather grown by an animal and not himself, and who doesn't walk on pavement that was poured by someone else, using cement mixed by someone else, containing a binder that wasn't dehydrated by someone else, binder that was dehydrated in a machine built by someone else, using steel that was produced by someone else, from iron ore that was mined by someone else, transported to a smelter by someone else, poured by someone else, cooled by someone else, formed into billets by someone else, and formed by someone else.

Typically those who claim self reliant live in a house built by someone else, constructed from wood that was harvested by someone else, wood made from trees that Cont.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 05, 2011
grew by themselves without the aid of the home owner, hauled and cut into standard sizes by someone else, and erected on a foundation that was formed and poured by others, in a hole that was dug by someone else, using machinery that was produced by someone else, that is powered by gasoline that was produced by someone else and transported to a filling station by someone else.

Funny isn't it that those who revere "self reliance" actually do virtually nothing for themselves.

Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 05, 2011
"But as we know from real life, the most aggressive males aren't always these most smarter ones." - Callippo

Indeed. Typically aggressive males have lower IQ's than the rest of the population.

You encounter them from time to time, perpetually angry at the fact that life has been so poor to them when in fact they are universally the origin of their own continued failure.
88HUX88
not rated yet Dec 05, 2011
"closet" and "they're accuracy" poop.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 05, 2011
"It's hard to believe that fling your own excrement at anyone to be a sign of intelligence." - BugMen

Obviously you have never walked down a prison cell block.
rawa1
1 / 5 (3) Dec 05, 2011
Obviously you have never walked down a prison cell block.
This is very good point, congrats...;-) It explains the rudimentary aspects of this behaviour very clearly, nearly 1:1. Thanks to it we can exactly imagine, what the chimpanzee are feeling, when they're throwing poops through bars. And vice-versa, thanks to it we now know, why the prisoners are doing this silly ritual.

BTW The mass downvoting applied some individuals here is of the same origin. It's act of the aggressive frustration from the primitive apes inside of us.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Dec 05, 2011
I'd be very curious if anybody has ever gauged psychological responses from chimps in a role-reversed scenario.

Iow, how would they react to seeing humans in a cage.

My guess is that they would try to free them.

Just a hunch, but I think there is room for research in this vein.
pael
1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2011
Romans 1:18-24

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world Gods invisible qualitieshis eternal power and divine naturehave been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

All I can say is, the emperor has no clothes.

Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed but rather evolved.

Francis Crick Nobel Laureate
What Mad Pursuit p.138 1988

TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 07, 2011
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Yawn. Scratch. Snort. Fart. Belch. I take it you're a religionist aren't you? How can we know something that is not there? We know what we know. And so far what we know is, all the various believers in all the various gods together will end this species through their selfish bigotry and desire to supplant all the others.

Give up your addictive fantasies. Live with things as they ARE. There's NO GOD to save you from each other. I do hope there is a Power to save the world from all of you.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 07, 2011
Hey here's an old favorite:

"18 I also said to myself, "As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" ecc3

-This all doesn't mean much when taken out of context. But what 'solomon' is saying in the whole chapter is that humans are indeed like the animals they hunt and herd. They operate by the same basic rules, which includes reproduction.

The People who wrote your book knew that humans need Management just like the animals which both threaten them and feed them. And Management includes a proper Time for all activities as listed in the previous verses.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 07, 2011
-Which are, for the hard-hearted:

" 1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:
 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate..."

-And last but certainly not least:

"a Time for war and a Time for peace."

-The Salvation of the species depends on being able to make these things happen at the proper Time. Through the ages your religions have all been instrumental in this. But their Utility is past. They must END now.

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