Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chimps make and hunt with spears

That's the slightly mind-boggling report from researchers watching a chimp population in Senegal. Chimps trim the leaves off branches and sharpen the ends with their teeth to make spears used to poke smaller primates (bushbabies) out of hollow tree branches and trunks.
Interestingly, the method is used by adolescents and not by adults. Also, they don't do a very good job of it: of 22 occasions when chimps were observed using this technique, they got a bushbaby out of its hiding place exactly once.
COMMENT: We used to think only humans made tools. And we thought only humans had language, although the definition of language is not universally agreed on. What is left that is uniquely human, besides the use of credit cards? OK, there are philosophy and theology. And television. No, I have no idea where I'm going with this.

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