Thursday, May 18, 2006

Score another point for our knuckle-walking friends

From ABC:

Apes Shown to Be Able to Plan Ahead

WASHINGTON May 18, 2006 (AP)— They don't bring along an umbrella or sunglasses that might be needed later, but researchers say apes, like people, can plan ahead.

Both orangutans and bonobos were able to figure out which tool would work in an effort to retrieve grapes, and were able to remember to bring that tool along hours later, researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

In a series of laboratory tests the apes were shown the tools and grapes, allowed to retrieve grapes, and then removed from the area where the treats were available.

They were allowed back from one to 14 hours later and most were able to bring along the correct tool to get the treats, report Nicholas J. Mulcahy and Josep Call of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

The researchers said the finding suggests that planning ahead arose at least 14 million years ago, when the last common ancestor of bonobos, orangutans and humans lived.

While the findings do not necessarily imply that the apes are able to anticipate a future state of mind, they are nonetheless groundbreaking, Thomas Suddendorf of the University of Queensland in Australia said in a commentary.

"By identifying what capacities our closest living relatives share with us, we can get a glimpse at our evolutionary past," Suddendorf said.

Frankly, apes are simply so incredible that I constantly find myself baffled by the shear number of people who react with vehemence against the idea--well supported though it may be--that humanity is related to these stupendous creatures. I know I'm delighted by the mere thought of it!

On other hand, I'm wildly confused about why ABC chose to file this story under "Politics." Weirdoes.

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