London: It is teamwork and not just pure brain power that has given a definitive edge to humans over apes and other species, a new study has claimed.
Researchers at St Andrews University said yesterday the human ability to work together was the unique secret to human success. Teamwork is the key ability that separated Man from the apes.
In puzzle tests which pitted nursery children against capuchin monkeys and chimpanzees, children triumphed again and again, because they cooperated, the Daily Mail reported.
Although monkeys can learn from one another, the animals worked alone. The children taught one another how to beat the puzzles, offered advice and shared the rewards.
It gave them a crucial advantage over the monkeys, and may offer an insight into why the human race triumphed over other animals.
Describing it as `the secret formula`, the St Andrews researchers said "critical social and cognitive capabilities possessed by humans, but not other animals" explain our success as a species.
The research suggests that working as a team and sharing rewards is rare in nature but a key characteristic of humans.
The work was carried out by St Andrews researcher, Dr Lewis Dean and a team of biologists and psychologists from Texas, Strasbourg and Durham University in England.
Dean set out to establish what sets humans apart from non-human primates in the ability to build on existing knowledge.
"Humans can fashion ever more efficient, complex and diverse solutions to life`s challenges, building on the knowledge and technology of previous generations," he said.
"Other animals, despite being able to learn from one another, never seem to build on that knowledge. Our study proves that it is our social skills and, in particular, the human ability to cooperate that explains our successes and achievements in a fast-moving technological age," he added.
The researchers set the same series of puzzles for groups of capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees, and nursery school children, each puzzle built upon the previous one, to retrieve rewards of increasing desirability, better and better foods for the animals and more and more desirable stickers for the children.
The children, but not the chimps or monkeys, were able to reach higher-level solutions, largely because they helped each other.