Project Nim

Back in 2008 I wrote a book review of Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human There are a number of stories in the Guardian concerning a documentary, based on the book, on the subject. First, Peter Singer reviews the film. Second, Carole Jahme interviews special effects artist Pauline Fowler. Finally, there is a picture gallery.

Do Chimpanzees Mourn For Their Dead?

Note: The next addition of the Four Stone hearth will at This is Serious Monkey Business on February 2nd. Pleas get your submissions in!

That seems to be the way the press is portraying the video below. The video was released in conjunction with an article published in the American Journal of Primatology (the article can also be found here) Continue reading

Sex Differences in Chimpanzee Use of Play Objects

I will be hosting the Four Stone Hearth on 1/05/11. Please send my your submissions! In the meantime, I am looking for hosts for dates in February and March. If you are interested in hosting drop me a line (my email address is on the “About” tab).

Current Biology has and interesting paper called Sex differences in chimpanzees’ use of sticks as play objects resemble those of children. The paper, by Kahlenberg and Wrangham, reports on male and female play with sticks. The study involved chimpanzees of the Kanyawara community at Kibale National Park in Uganda. Continue reading

Contagious Yawning In Chimpanzees Caused By Animation

I first became interested in the subject of yawning based on this NPR story. The idea that yawning is contagious is not a new idea. Of course, dogs do yawn in response to humans, as do primates. But do they yawn in response to a video?
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Chimpanzee Tool Use: Ants, Termites, and Bee’s Nests

Science Daily has an interesting item, Chimpanzees Develop ‘Specialized Tool Kits’ To Catch Army Ants, that discusses research into tool use in chimpanzee ant catching behavior.

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Chimpanzee Tool Kits

The Discovery Channel website has an interesting story on chimpanzee tool kits :

For this latest study, however, Boesch and colleagues Josephine Head and Martha Robbins observed chimpanzees at Loango National Park on the coast of Gabon, Africa. They identified at least five different types of chimp-made honey extraction tools used in sequence.

The tools consist of pounders, enlargers, collectors, perforators and swabbers. Chimps, suspended in acrobatic positions on branches, might first pull out a thick stick pounder to break open beehive entrances. They then reach for another stick, the enlarger, to perforate and widen different honeybee hive compartments. Next comes the collector, used to dip or scoop out honey.

Different tools and methods are needed to obtain underground bee honey. The chimps wield a perforator to penetrate the ground, locate a honey chamber and dig into the soil. They then pull off strips of bark to “dip and spoon the honey out of the opened beehive.”

Obtaining honey from an underground hive isn’t easy. Aside from dealing with angry, stinging bees, the chimps must dig narrow sideways tunnels, maintain perfect aim and prevent soil from falling into, and ruining, their desired sweet reward.

Apparently, the study (being published in the Journal of Human Evolution) also compares chimp toolkits with those “stone age human techologies.”

(This post published via email)

Chimps, Dogs, Or Ants: Which is a Better Model For Human Sociality

Over at UD Denyse O’Leary is all twitterpated over this news story. The news item concerns a paper accepted for publication in the journal Advances in the Study of Behavior. The paper hasn’t been published yet, so we are dependent on MSNBC for details:

Lead author Jozsef Topal explained to Discovery News “that shared environment has led to the emergence of functionally shared behavioral features in dogs and humans and, in some cases, functionally analogous underlying cognitive skills.”

*snip*

“In my view, pet dogs can be regarded in many respects as ‘preverbal infants in canine’s clothing,'” he said, adding that many dog-owner relationships mirror human parental bonds with children.
In one of many recent studies conducted by the team, Topal and his colleagues taught both a 16-month-old human child and mature dogs to repeat multiple demonstrated actions on verbal command — “Do it!,” shouted in Hungarian.

The idea that dogs might serve as models of human behavior is not a new idea. Dogs, like humans are highly social animals that evolved from other highly social animals. For example, one line of research looks at the ability of dogs and wolves to perceive and act on cues provided by humans (turns out wolves don’t pay that much attention to cues provided by humans).
Of course, other animal models have been suggested:

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