What's the Latest Development?
A study published today (Sept. 11) in PLOS ONE describes how Sumatran male orangutans plan for their trips: The night before, dominant males in a group let out loud, long calls in the direction they will be traveling the next day. The night calls, which can be heard from over a kilometer away, function as signals for other members, particularly females who want to stay close to their preferred mates. The University of Zurich research team, which followed 15 males in the field for up to 10 days each, discovered that in general, the direction of the calls corresponded to the direction the groups traveled.
What's the Big Idea?
Although certain animals have been observed planning for future events in lab or captive settings, it's the first time such planning has been seen in the wild and the first time it's been seen in a non-human primate species. University of Georgia researcher Allison Howard says that doesn't necessarily mean other animals don't think in advance: "We might be missing it...because they don't have calls that indicate direction of travel. Or if they do indicate direction of travel, we don't know what the signal is." More research is needed to help determine the reasons why the orangutans choose a particular direction or path.
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