Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Where Do Chimps Learn to Use Tools? Ask Mom.

Researchers video chimpanzee mothers teaching their kids how to use tools.

Chimps (CHESTER ZOO)

Chimpanzees know how to use tools: They strip the leaves off twigs and use the sticks to dig tasty termites from termite mounds. Ever since Jane Goodall first observed the behavior back in the 1960s, scientists have wondered how they know to do it. We may now have the answer: Their mom teaches them.


Chimps are among a pretty select group of non-human tool users — the club of about 10 animals so far may well grow in the future, but for now, we’ve only observed a handful of animals using implements of some kind to accomplish something.

Crows like the endangered Hawaiian ‘Alalā use sticks to pry tasty bugs out of logs.

Octopi have been seen building temporary shelters from coconut shells.

Sea otters use stones to crack open shells of prey and dislodge abalone shells from rocks. Bears will stack boxes to reach a tasty treat. Dolphins carry sponges they use to dig food out of sand. And so on.

But scientists have wondered how each chimp comes by its technique, wondering if it’s instinctual behavior or something else. That is, until a chimp mother in the Nouabalé-Ndoki national park in the Republic of Congo was caught instructing Junior how to “fish for termites.” A team of scientists led by anthropologist Stephanie Musgrave of Washington University in St. Louis had set up cameras at termite mounds in the southern end of the park, in the Goualougo Triangle.

“In this population, chimpanzees select specific herb species to make their fishing probes, and they produce probes that have a particular brush-tipped design. By sharing tools, mothers may teach their offspring the appropriate material and form for manufacturing fishing probes,” Musgrave told Washington University’s the Source.

Co-author of the study Crickett Sanz adds, “It is easy for us to take for granted the importance of sharing information to learn complex skills, as it is ubiquitous in humans. Our research shows that the evolutionary origins of this behavior are likely rooted in contexts where particular skills are too challenging for an individual to invent on their own.”

Washington University is at the forefront of capturing chimpanzee behavior of video, developing a system that’s in use throughout the Congo.

The researchers point out that time spent teaching is time for food acquisition the mother seflfessly sacrifices for the benefit of her offspring. Moms. 

The study offers a chance to examine the passage of knowledge from one generation to another, whether that’s in chimps or humans. Musgrave says, “Studying how young chimpanzees learn the tool skills particular to their group helps us to understand the evolutionary origins of culture and technology and to clarify how human cultural abilities are similar to or different from those of our closest living relatives.”

It’s also worth noting that this upends traditional Western human gender roles, suggesting there’s nothing biological about the way humans divide labor. In fact, a study has recently been released that suggests a human child’s intelligence comes from its mother. It’s a controversial conclusion and may not hold, but Chimp Mom, at least, might well agree.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
Keep reading Show less

Masturbation boosts your immune system, helping you fight off infection and illness

Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?

Sexual arousal and orgasm increase the number of white blood cells in the body, making it easier to fight infection and illness.

Image by Yurchanka Siarhei on Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
  • The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
  • Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
Keep reading Show less

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast