Sunday, 20 May 2012

Deceptive Chimp Hides Ammo, Blasts Unsuspecting Zoo Visitors

A chimp that creates hiding places for rocks he throws at zoo visitors reveals for the first time that humanity's closest living relatives can plan to deceive, researchers say.

These findings could shed light on the evolution of higher mental functions such as planning, investigators added.

The chimpanzee known as Santino is the dominant male of his group at Furuvik Zoo in Sweden. Intriguingly, past research showed the ape calmly gathered stones from his enclosure's moat and pieces of concrete he pulled off an artificial island into stockpiles he later hurled at zoo visitors — an instance of spontaneous planning for a future event, a mental ability once widely thought limited to humans.

"A lot of great apes, especially dominant males, throw things at human bystanders," said researcher Mathias Osvath, a comparative cognitive scientist and scientific director of Lund University's Primate Research Station Furuvik in Sweden. "It is most often part of their dominance displays and an effective way to make people move, which is the main purpose of a display. Other individuals are supposed to move during such displays to accept the dominance." 

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