from the world's big
Big brains come at a big cost, however.
- A recent study examined the relationship between brain size and the development of motor skills across 36 primate species.
- The researchers observed more than 120 captive primates in 13 zoos for over seven years.
- The results suggest that primates follow rigid patterns in terms of which manipulative skills they learn first, and that the ultimate complexity of these skills depends on brain size.
Fig. 1 Eight food manipulation categories and their order of emergence during ontogeny. Ninety-seven percent of all observed species (N = 36) and 82% of all observed individuals (N = 128) strictly followed this ontogenetic sequence.
Heldstab et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Our results show that the neural development follows extremely rigid patterns -- even in primate species that differ greatly in other respects," Sandra Heldstab, an evolutionary biologist in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Zurich, said in a <a href="https://www.media.uzh.ch/en/Press-Releases/2020/Dexterity.html" target="_blank">press release</a>.<br></p><p>For the study, the researchers observed 128 primates in 13 European zoos over seven years, recording more than 10,000 observations from the time the animals were born until they reached adult-level dexterity. The team found that smaller-brained primates, like lemurs, start learning simple motor skills at an earlier age than larger-brained primates, like chimpanzees.</p>
Heldstab et al.<p>But the wait pays off for larger-brained primates: They're eventually able to perform more complex tasks with their hands, like using tools, or moving both hands simultaneously to move multiple objects.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It is no coincidence that we humans are so good at using our hands and using tools, our large brains made it possible," Heldstab said. "A big brain equals great dexterity."</p><p>It seems inefficient that primates, like chimps and humans, undergo such a long period of learning and dependency. But the researchers suggest this represents a fitness tradeoff: primate parents and children spend more time on development, but it leads to complex skills that help them get more food, and survive longer. In other words, animals don't evolve to perform complex manipulative tasks unless it significantly prolongs lifespan.</p>
William Vanderson / Stringer<p>So, what does this mean for the evolution of other animals? The researchers say their findings imply that if a species is going to make and use tools, it needs to have "reached a sufficiently slow life history pace to permit such a change in their foraging niche." In other words, the baby giraffe that hits the ground running might be good at escaping predators, but don't expect it to do something like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEk_sNYAyCo" target="_blank">build a primitive fishing rod to "fish" for algae</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Our study shows once again that in the course of evolution, only mammals that live a long time and have enough time to learn were able to develop a large brain and complex fine motor skills including the ability to use tools," Heldstab said. "This makes it clear why so few species could follow our path and why humans could become the most technologically accomplished organism on this planet."</p>
Never has the bar to entry been so low and the recognized benefits so high.
- Learning a new language has been shown to sharpen your cognitive abilities while helping stave off dementia as you age.
- A University of Chicago study found that businesspeople make better decisions when weighing problems in a non-native tongue.
- Juggling multiple languages lets bilingual speakers switch between tasks with less stress and more control than monolinguists.
What happens when someone you respect doesn't treat others with dignity?
- Respect and dignity are sometimes conflated, but Cultures of Dignity founder Rosalind Wiseman argues that they are very different.
- Dignity, according to Wiseman, is the essential and inextricable worth of a person. Respect is the admiration for someone's actions, which often involves how they treat others. The rub comes when people in positions of authority and respect (for example, our elders) behave in ways undeserving of that admiration but are seemingly above reprimanding.
- "This is actually one of the biggest problems for young people in education," Wiseman says, adding that when that loss of respect and dignity hits home for students, they tend to disengage from learning. "If I could change something about education, it would be to have dignity be a bedrock of education and that everyone—the teachers, the parents, the students, the staff, everyone, the administrators—has to be treated with dignity."
Certified sommelier Carlos Batista will show you the ropes of bartending.
- Neighborhood bars might be closed, but you can still enjoy your favorite cocktails at home.
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Passion makes challenges enjoyable, but it may have little use in schools.
In order to be successful, many people believe, one must be passionate. Passion makes challenges enjoyable.