Friday, December 10, 2004

Monkey tool use breaks new ground

a male capuchin using a digging stone.

Capuchins in the dry forests of northeastern Brazil have an unusual approach to food: they have been caught using tools to dig up tubers, a feat previously only seen in humans.

"They're using their minds, not just brute force," claims Phyllis Lee of the University of Cambridge, UK, who reports the discovery with her colleague Antonio Moura in this week's Science1.

Although many primates, particularly chimpanzees and orangutans, are thought to be good at reasoning things out for themselves, digging for food has never been seen before, in the wild or in captivity.

Several species are known to use 'tools', such as the birds of prey that dash their hard-shelled prey on to rocks to crack them open. But the latest case of tool use differs from many of these examples because it may be based on an understanding of cause and effect.

Story here.

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