Nature Blog Network Future Earth: Malice of forethought?

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Malice of forethought?

Motherly monkeys and aggressive apes in the news again this week. Why are researchers still surprised when they find that other primates have complex minds and even more complex behaviours?

Much is being made of zoo chimp Santino demonstrating an ability to plan and prepare - collecting and fashioning stones to later hurl at visitors. This thoughtful planning for a future state is apparently "human-like" -
"Forward planning like this is supposed to be uniquely human; it implies a consciousness that is very special, that you can close your eyes and see this inner world" says cognitive scientist Mathias Osvath.

Sitting under fruiting figs in tropical forests you can't help but wonder whether modern-day humans could move deliberately through tropical forest in a straight line for many kilometres to arrive at a fruit-bearing tree at the exact moment in a multi-year cycle that it comes through with forage. Hmm. I'd suggest you tap into the inner world of a superior ape to achieve this feat.

And if you want to avoid attacks on the way, take a baby primate for a spot of agonistic buffering. I would also recommend this technique if you are moving across border posts with far too many landrover spare parts.

Sad postscript for Santino - maybe he qualifies for a version of the Darwin award as this behaviour has taken him out of the gene pool:

"They have castrated the poor guy. They hope that his hormone levels will decrease and that will make him less prone to throw stones. He's already getting fatter and he likes to play much more now than before. Being agitated isn't good for him," said Osvath.

No comments: