Primate behavior: Chimps select smart tools, monkeys intentionally beg

Jul 18, 2012

Chimpanzees use weight to pick the best tool, and monkeys beg more when they're paid attention to, as reported in two independent research reports published July 18 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

In the chimp study, researchers found that the used weight to choose the best hammer to crack open . Nut cracking is one of the most sophisticated instances of tool use in chimpanzees, and learning how to do it has been shown to be very difficult for some . In work led by Cornelia Schrauf of the University of Vienna, the researchers showed that the chimps were able to choose the best tool to crack nuts based solely on the weight of the tool. Schrauf notes, "Experience clearly affected the subjects´ attentiveness to the relevant tool properties. Whereas the most skilled chimpanzee showed a preference for the most efficient hammers from the early beginning of the experiment, the unskilled individuals became selective over time."

In another study, old world monkeys called Mangabeys were shown to modulate their begging behavior based on whether the experimenter was paying attention to them. The monkeys were trained to make "requesting gestures," and the researchers, led by Audrey Maille of the University of Rennes 1 in France, found that the monkeys gestured more and faster when the experimenter's body and head were facing the monkey than when they were oriented away. The monkeys did not modulate their behavior simply based on the direction of the experimenter's gaze, though.

Maille explains, "Our study deals with…whether functional similarities may be found between human language and nonhuman primates communication. By investigating the flexibility of gestures production, we showed that old world , and not only great apes, may use communicative signals intentionally."

Explore further: Telling the time of day by color

More information: Maille A, Engelhart L, Bourjade M, Blois-Heulin C (2012) To Beg, or Not to Beg? That Is the Question: Mangabeys Modify Their Production of Requesting Gestures in Response to Human's Attentional States. PLoS ONE 7(7): e41197. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041197

Related Stories

Chimp and human communication trace to same brain region

Feb 28, 2008

An area of the brain involved in the planning and production of spoken and signed language in humans plays a similar role in chimpanzee communication, researchers report online on February 28th in the journal Current Biology.

Recommended for you

Telling the time of day by color

16 hours ago

Research by scientists at The University of Manchester has revealed that the colour of light has a major impact on how the brain clock measures time of day and on how the animals' physiology and behavior adjust accordingly. ...

Aphrodisiac for fish and frogs discovered

21 hours ago

A supplement simply added to water has been shown to boost reproduction in nematodes (roundworms), molluscs, fish and frogs – and researchers believe it could work for humans too.

Evolution puts checks on virgin births

22 hours ago

It seems unnatural that a species could survive without having sex. Yet over the ages, evolution has endowed females of certain species of amphibians, reptiles and fish with the ability to clone themselves, ...

Humans can't resist those puppy-dog eyes

Apr 16, 2015

When humans and their four-legged, furry best friends look into one another's eyes, there is biological evidence that their bond strengthens, researchers report.

Roundworm parasite targets canine eyes

Apr 16, 2015

(HealthDay)—A small number of dogs and cats across the United States have been infected by a roundworm parasite that targets the eye, according to a new report.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.