May 18, 2006
Apes Are In The News Once More
Live Science is going ape these days with stories about apes and monkeys.
Putty-nosed monkeys, who dwell in African rainforests, give out warning "hacks" when predators are around. I love the description of the goals of the monkeys by the Live Science writer: "Their three main goals in life are to reproduce, eat, and not get eaten." Aint that what evolution is all about? More here.
Now it looks like humans and chimp ancestors may have interbred. " The initial split occurred around 6.3 million years ago. Sometime after, the descendents of the earliest known human ancestor—the 6.5 to 7.5-million-year-old "Toumai," a biped that probably didn't look much different than chimpanzee ancestors—mated with ancestral chimps and created a hybrid species.
Scientists can't say how long the hybridization carried on, but the final speciation occurred around 5.3 million years ago, possibly because the two species' genetic coded were too different to mix or the animals were simply physically unappealing to each other." More here
Unappealing to each other? I don't think they are talking about married couples who have been together too long.
And now for the best story, at least to me. Apes plan ahead.
"To determine if apes can also perform this type of "mental time travel," Nicholas Mulcahy and Josep Call, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, enlisted five bonobo chimpanzees and five orangutans for an experiment.
The researchers first led the animals into a room and taught them how to use a tool to get a food reward. Then the apes were directed to a "tool shed" containing tools for reaching grapes and juice bottles. Two of the tools were well suited for the task, while six were not.
After an ape made its selection, it was not allowed access to the goodie dispenser for an hour, so the animal hauled the tool back to a waiting room for storage.
When the researchers allowed the animals to have a go at the dispenser, the apes returned with a suitable tool and retrieved their treat in less than 5 minutes about 30 percent of the time.
One orangutan, a female named Dokana, was particularly adept at planning ahead. She returned to the feeding area with the correct tool for the task nearly every time. Even when she brought back the wrong tool, she figured out how to alter it to make it work anyway.
In a second test, the researchers extended the wait time to 14 hours and ran the test with Dokana and a male bonobo named Kuno. Dokana took tools with her in all 11 trials, and returned with the proper tool seven times. Kuno did even better, returning with the right tool eight times.
Reading an ape's mind
The authors suggest that selecting a tool, which has no value in itself, is evidence that the apes are actually planning ahead, since the animal knows that the tool will come in handy later on."
OK, now I would have guessed that Great Apes could think ahead. But this leads me to ponder why can't Palestinians think ahead. Maybe some of the Palestinian leaders need brain transplants. Give the Palestinian leaders bonobos brains and maybe, just maybe, there will be peace in the middle east.
Here is an example of how Palestinians think ahead:
Palestinians have yet to show any ability to think even one move ahead. They seem to be stuck on the past. Voting for Hamas was a perfect example of this. I have a feeling that when a Palestinian gets ready for a game of chess, he just imagines suicide belts on all the pawns.