Friday, June 10, 2011

Spitting And Peeing Chimps Mimic Aesop Fable

chimp urinating problem solving
In Aesop's 2,000-year-old tale, a crow uses stones to raise the water level in a pitcher to reach the liquid so as to quench its thirst.

But when given a similar set up, chimps were able to attain an out-of-reach, floating peanut by spitting water taken from a dispenser into a vertical tube.

One hungry chimp went even further by urinating into the vessel to get hold of the prized snack.

"He was spitting water into the tube, then got frustrated," explained lead researcher Daniel Hanus from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Leipzig, Germany.

"So he started peeing and then he realised: 'Wait a minute, if I move in that direction, that fills up the tube'."

The chimp's unusual method proved successful, the scientist said. The fact that the peanut was urine-sodden did not deter the animal from eating it, he added.

The study was carried out with gorillas and chimpanzees.

The primates were presented with a vertical glass tube, which was secured to a cage so it could not be moved or broken. At the bottom was a peanut, floating on a small amount of water.

They were also given access to a water dispenser.

The idea was that the animals would take water from the dispenser in their mouths, and then spit it into the tube to raise the water level.

It would take several visits back and forth between the dispenser and tube to gather enough water to get to the peanut.

The team found that none of the five gorillas was able to complete the task.

Chimps however were more successful. Out of 43 chimps, based in the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, in Uganda, and Germany's Leipzig Zoo, 14 worked out that they needed to take the water in their mouths and spit it into the tube, and seven did this enough times to successfully obtain a peanut.

Dr Hanus said the study highlighted the chimps' ability to solve problems.

Full story here.

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