Chimpanzee uses innovative foresighted methods to fool humans

May 10, 2012

Chimpanzee Santino achieved international fame in 2009 for his habit of gathering stones and manufacturing concrete projectiles to throw at zoo visitors. A new study shows that Santino's innovativeness when he plans his stone-throwing is greater than researchers have previously observed. He not only gathers stones and manufactures projectiles in advance; he also finds innovative ways of fooling the visitors. The study, which was carried out at Lund University, has been published in PLoS One.

The new study looked at the chimpanzee's ability to carry out complex planning. The case study shows how humans' closest in the appear to be able to plan to deceive others, and that they can also plan their deception inventively. The behaviour of the chimpanzee Santino is of particular interest because it is done while the humans to be deceived are out of sight. That means that the chimpanzee can plan without having immediate perceptual feedback of his goal – the visitors to the zoo – to aid in his planning.

The subject of the study is Santino the chimpanzee, who achieved international fame in 2009 for his of gathering stones and manufacturing concrete to throw at visitors from the safety of his enclosure at Furuvik Zoo north of Stockholm. His behaviour was reported as an example of spontaneous planning for a future event, in which his psychological state was visibly quite different from that of his subsequent aggressive displays. Previously, such cognitive abilities had been widely believed to be restricted to humans.

The new study sought to collect more detailed data on Santino's projectile-throwing behaviour over the course of the 2010 zoo season.

In the new study, the chimpanzee continued and extended his previous behaviour of caching projectiles for later use in aggressive throwing displays. The new behaviour involved innovative use of concealments: both naturally occurring ones and ones he manufactured from hay. All were placed near the visitors' area. This allowed Santino to throw his missiles before the crowd had time to back away.

The first hay concealment was made after the zoo guide had repeatedly backed visitors away when the chimpanzee made throwing attempts. All concealments were made when the were out of sight, and the hidden projectiles were used when they returned. In order to make the hay concealments the chimpanzee had bring the hay from the inside enclosure.

Over the course of the season, the researchers observed that the use of concealments became the chimpanzees preferred strategy. Moreover, Santino combined two deception strategies consistently: hiding projectiles and inhibiting the displays of dominance that otherwise preceded his throws.

The new findings suggest that may be able to represent the future behaviour of others while those others are not present. It is also critical that the chimpanzee's initial behaviour produced a future event, rather than merely preparing for one that had reliably occurred before. This in turn, suggest a flexible planning ability which, in humans, relies on creative re-combining of memories, mentally acted out in a 'what if' future scenario.

Explore further: Chimp's stone throwing at zoo visitors was 'premeditated'

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16 comments

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Scottingham
3.7 / 5 (3) May 10, 2012
aw, what a cute little inmate!
Mike_Massen
2.1 / 5 (11) May 10, 2012
98.5% same genes and yes very similar behaviour in many respects, brothers in arms over many millennia.

Obviously Moses wasn't a parent (and probably never married) or never observed chimps or other primates and probably never even knew of their existence...!

Isn't it amusing and ironic that a priest who has risen to a level of sorts in the catholic church is then called a 'Primate', out of the mouths of babes indeed !

*grin*
Russkiycremepuff
1 / 5 (3) May 10, 2012
If this study is showing that chimpanzees have capability of thinking in abstract like humans, then we may not be as far removed from these animals as we think. Is it that Santino is evolving while in captivity as result of necessity? Or is the capability inherent in the species? It is good for research to continue to find the most similarities to humans, but not to teach human ways or study will be flawed.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (9) May 10, 2012
"That means that the chimpanzee can plan without having immediate perceptual feedback of his goal the visitors to the zoo to aid in his planning."

-Jane Goodall and others observed bands of chimps stalking and ambushing chimps from other tribes, which would require a certain level of forethought and planning. As weapons use increased, the competition among equals for innovative strategies and cooperation among ever-larger bands would have driven the accelerated increase in brain size all by itself. Winners of these engagements got to impregnate all conquered females, and genes for intelligence would have quickly evolved.

This could also explain the presence of the hymen in our species, which is rare among primates. Why waste time mating with and supporting females who may already be carrying someone elses baby? The hymen is the only way of ensuring that warriors are propagating and not conquered weaklings.
indio007
3 / 5 (4) May 10, 2012
I think they better let this one go back to the wild before he figures out what a gun does.
Deadbolt
3.7 / 5 (3) May 10, 2012
The more I learn about chimps, the more I think that they're too intelligent to keep in captivity. The probably think about escaping all the time, and plan for it all the time, and that must be torment for them.
Russkiycremepuff
1.6 / 5 (7) May 10, 2012
I believe that it is Santino's hiding of the stones under the hay that is more the abstract thought and planning than is the collecting of the stones to throw. This utilising of hay for hiding is indication of evolving subterfuge so as to pretend normalcy while laying in wait. Very human trait. In animals such as big cats, there is outright aggressive behaviours of lioness that is dependency more on speed than ability to avoid detection. It is interesting that the aggressiveness toward the humans is catalyst for Santino's plan of deception and acting out. He not simply utilises stones for aggression, but also recognises that the humans are aware of his use of stones to throw. Thusly, the necessity of subterfuge. Such aggression and in some species, the hiding to avoid detection, is normal. But all in the quest for food; not for aggression for its own sake.
It is the awareness that brings Santino closer to human stage of brain development
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) May 10, 2012
Deception is common in the animal world:
http://en.wikiped...eception

Ever watch a dove take off or a squirrel run away? They feint.

'All of war is deception' - Sun Tsu
'Peace is only the preparation for war.' - osho
'Therefore all of peace is necessarily deception as well.' - otto

Humans were selected evolutionarily for deception. Which explains why it pervades every aspect of culture and society. Skull and Bones is a debating society. Of course. Formal debate is convincingly arguing a point of view that you may not believe in, an essential skill for politicians, spies, CEOs, and just about everybody else.
Squirrel
1 / 5 (3) May 11, 2012
Santino is only doing what a few four-year-olds might in a similar situation. The real question about human-nonhuman primate differences is how human adolescence builds upon the language skill acquired in human childhood.
mosahlah
1.6 / 5 (7) May 11, 2012
If a chimp throws rocks at me, he's going to learn a lot more than where to hide his cache.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) May 11, 2012
Is it that Santino is evolving while in captivity as result of necessity?

I think you're confusing the terms '(cognitive) development' with 'evolution'.
Deathclock
2 / 5 (4) May 11, 2012
Is it that Santino is evolving while in captivity as result of necessity?


That's not how evolution works... Evolution does not occur to a single individual, it occurs to populations over generations due to variance between parent and child. Evolution occurs at the boundary of the creation of new life, by the simple facts of inheritance and variation.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (8) May 11, 2012
If a chimp throws rocks at me, he's going to learn a lot more than where to hide his cache.
Careful - he might chew your nuts off. And your hands and your face. Nasty beasts. Our closest relatives.
Burnerjack
not rated yet May 13, 2012
I like the inihibtion of typical displays of dominance... He thinks:"Ok, be cool, yeah, act naturally, real cool like... then WHAMMO! I clock'em all and make good my escape!...
This not only illuminates how smart they are, but also them, like all of us yearn to be free. They, like us resent their captors and their captivity. No matter how pleasant the housing, the environment, prison is still prison.
Shakescene21
not rated yet May 16, 2012
If a chimp throws rocks at me, he's going to learn a lot more than where to hide his cache.
Careful - he might chew your nuts off. And your hands and your face. Nasty beasts. Our closest relatives.

A lot of people don't realize that a chimpanzee is much more powerful physically than a human. Fortunately our wimpy ancestors were able to invent clubs, spears, fire, and superior organization to drive our closest relatives into the forest.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) May 16, 2012
A lot of people don't realize that a chimpanzee is much more powerful physically than a human. Fortunately our wimpy ancestors were able to invent clubs, spears, fire, and superior organization to drive our closest relatives into the forest.
They didn't drive them anywhere. Bushmeat is a favorite of many African indigenes. It is the last endangered delicacy they are willing to give up. And as the apes share most of our chromosomes it can be considered in effect cannibalism.

Hunting and fighting were indistinguishable in the Pleistocene. After an ambush why leave all that good protein go to waste? Humans developed immunity to certain prions because cannibalism was endemic. Once we became able to hunt the predators which had kept our numbers in check, man became the primary enemy of man; and also a viable food source.

The next tribe is always a little less human than yours.

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