Quirks & Quarks

Chimps Share Thirst For Knowledge

Scientists observe chimps learning the use of a new tool, and then sharing that knowledge....
Chimp uses a moss sponge to take in water. Catherine Hobaiter

Scientists observe chimps learning the use of a new tool, and then sharing that knowledge.
Tool use among chimpanzees is well known - in particular, making sponges out of leaves in order to soak up, then drink, water from hard-to-reach places.  But, for the first time in the wild, scientists have observed a new type of tool being adopted and then transmitted socially within a wild chimp population. Dr. Catherine Hobaiter, a Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, witnessed a chimp making a sponge out of moss, instead of leaves - a novel invention - in the presence of another chimp. Within days, a total of seven chimps had learned the behaviour and were doing it for themselves. Social learning in this way was previously thought to be a unique characteristic of human culture.

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