Even chimps can use tools flawlessly

Researchers have looked for the spontaneous re-occurrence of a tool-use behaviour practiced in wild chimpanzees where sticks are used to scoop algae from the top of water surfaces.

Even chimps can use tools flawlessly

New Delhi: Chimpanzees can use tools spontaneously and flawlessly without taking help from others or sans watching others do it.

Researchers have looked for the spontaneous re-occurrence of a tool-use behaviour practiced in wild chimpanzees where sticks are used to scoop algae from the top of water surfaces.

Chimpanzees at Twycross Zoo in the UK were provided with a container of water with pieces of floating food.

The tested chimpanzees successfully used the sticks, and moreover, spontaneously showed the same underlying action pattern (a scooping action of the stick) as their wild cousins do.

The results, published in the journal PeerJ, challenge the accepted belief that chimpanzees need to learn from each other how to use tools, and instead suggest that some forms of tool-use are instead within their pre-existing behavioural repertoire.

"The commonly held belief is that chimpanzee behaviour is cultural, much like how human culture has been passed between groups," said researcher Elisa Bandini.

"But if that was the case, the same behaviours should never re-occur in naive subjects. Nobody, for example, could accurately reinvent extinct languages on the spot," said Bandini.

Due to the close genetic ties between humans and chimpanzees, it is likely that naive individuals also spontaneously invented some forms of early human material culture, researchers said.

"Given these results, the long-held assumption that apes must observe one another in order to show these behaviours may have been due to an illusion of cultural transmission - created by the apes arriving at the same behaviour independently," researcher Claudio Tennie added.

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