Edinburgh Zoo is to become a laboratory for Scottish scientists studying primates, it has been announced.
The "Living Links to Human Evolution" centre will allow a group of primatologists from the universities of St Andrews, Stirling, Edinburgh and Abertay to focus on more detailed aspects of behaviour closer to home, it was announced yesterday.
The scientists, already internationally renowned for their studies of wild monkeys and apes, will be able to study topics such as tool use, communication, social relationships and intelligence at the £1.6m UK centre of excellence into primate research funded by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (Shefc).
A pair of large enclosures will each be home to two species of monkeys, recreating the mixed-species communities that are natural in the wild.
Professor Andrew Whiten, of St Andrews University, said the zoo staff would provide expert animal care while researchers concentrated on ensuring the highest quality science. "We also think the primates themselves will benefit from the joining together of these two different kinds of expertise. Members of the Scottish primate research group have great experience of what life is like for primates in the wild, and our aim here is to recreate those conditions as far as possible. Then we can go on to answer questions raised by what we have seen in the forest, but are difficult to answer there," he said.