London: After learning sign language or making up “words” for things like banana or juice, Kanzi, the 30-year-old male bonobo chimp, continues to impress researchers with his new skill of making stone tools like early humans did.
Eviatar Nevo of the University of Haifa in Israel and his colleagues sealed food inside a log and watched Kanzi try to extract it.
While a companion bonobo attempted the problem a handful of times, and succeeded only by smashing the log on the ground, Kanzi took a longer and arguably more sophisticated approach, New Scientist reported.
Both had been taught to knap flint flakes in the 1990s, holding a stone core in one hand and using another as a hammer. Kanzi used the tools he created to come at the log in a variety of ways: inserting sticks into seams in the log, throwing projectiles at it, and employing stone flints as choppers, drills, and scrapers. In the end, he got food out of 24 logs, while his companion managed just two.
Perhaps most remarkable about the tools Kanzi created is their resemblance to those made by early Homo: wedges and choppers, and scrapers and drills.
Though it’s hard to say whether all bonobos possess similar skills, the findings will fuel the ongoing debate over whether stone tools mark the beginning of modern human culture, or predate our Homo genus.
They appear to suggest the latter – though critics will point out that Kanzi and his companion were taught how to make the tools.
First Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012, 09:11