jueves, 31 de enero de 2013

Trend-setting chimp teaches friend to use a straw

ORIGINAL: New Scientist
By Sandrine Ceurstemont, editor, New Scientist TV
31 January 2013

If your friend has a more efficient way of getting food, it makes sense to copy them. Now an experiment is showing for the first time that chimps also come to the same conclusion.

Captured by Shinya Yamamoto from Kyoto University in Japan and colleagues, this video shows how a chimp improves its use of a straw after observing a more proficient companion. At first, it uses the tool almost like an eye-dropper, dipping it in a box to sop up juice. But after it watches its friend drink faster by sucking on the straw, it learns to adopt this new approach. According to the team, which studied nine chimps, once an ape switched to straw-sucking, it never went back to the less efficient dipping technique.

Although it's well known that chimps learn socially, it's the first time they've been shown to improve the way they use a tool, which is a comparatively sophisticated ability. It requires a chimp to differentiate between two techniques involving the same instrument to achieve an identical goal.

The experiment shows that these apes have the mental capacity to evolve their cultural learning. "The limitations might be due to ecological, social and motivational factors rather than cognitive abilities," write the researchers.

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