Study Shows Chimpanzees Have Excellent Spatial Memory


Primatologists Emmanuelle Normand, Christophe Boesch, and Simone Ban recently conducted a study focused on the spatial memory of chimpanzees. Using GPS, the team mapped the location of 12,500 individual trees within the home range of a group of chimps in the Tai National Park in Ivory Coast.  Then, after tracking which trees the chimps regularly fed from, the researchers found that chimps would specifically seek out certain fruit trees depending on when the fruit was in season.

According to Normand:

“Across all seasons, it seems that they have preferred tree species. Like when it is the coula nuts season, chimpanzees crack nuts using tools for hours during a day. Or when it is the Sacoglottis fruits season, then the chimpanzees stay hours digging their fruit wadge in the water to press a maximum of juice from those fruits.”

The team believes this preference for fruit and the need to remember where the fruit trees are and when they are in season drove the evolutionary development of the primate brain.  Another primate who also has a penchant for finding their favorite fruit within a vast forest range is the Bornean orangutan.

For more information about the chimp study, see: BBC Earth News.

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World’s Oldest Patas Monkey at Racine Zoo

Julie, world's oldest patas monkeyJulie is a 27-year-old patas monkey who has lived her whole life in captivity at the Racine Zoo in Wisconsin. She is the world’s oldest patas monkey.

Patas monkeys are incredibly quick primates, reaching speeds up to 34 mph (55 km/h).  They reproduce starting at the early age of three years, which is imperative in the wild, where many patas monkeys don’t live past four years old.

So Julie’s 27th birthday on May 20 of this year was a spectacular feat.  Zoo keepers celebrated by giving Julie a banana and grape cake and a bag of wash cloths  (her favorite toys).

For more info: The Journal Times Online

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Bonobos’ Amazing Capacity to Learn

Here is a video of a fascinating talk given by Susan Savage-Rumbaugh in 2004 about bonobos.  Studies showed that bonobos display many similarities to early man in their ability to walk bipedally and make/use stone tools.  The video also demonstrates bonobos’ great capacity to learn human culture simply by watching the behavior of the scientists around them, including playing musical instruments, writing, making fires, and driving.

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