Chimp culture and technology
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25-09-2012, 01:58 PM
Chimp culture and technology
Someone on another forum asked if primates have culture and technology. I typed out a length reply complete with videos. I figured members here might be interested to read it since it applies to human evolution:

Yes, non-human primates have both technology and culture. Chimps, for example, have one of the most extensive “tool-kits” and “tool-sets” of any tool-using animal. In his Science article “Chimpanzee Technology” (April 2010), Prof. William C. McGrew mentions that chimps have 20 different types of tools that they use for “subsistence, sociality, sex, and self-maintenance.” These range from chewed up leaves to act as a “water sponge” to stone anvils to crack open palm nuts. There is even a community in Senegal that is starting to hunt with simple spears. Chimps are also known for using several tools in ordered succession in order to accomplish a task. For example, when obtaining honey from a tree, individuals from a community in Gabon in east Africa use five tools: a “pounder, perforator, enlarger, collector, and swab.” That is something to pound the bark, something to cut through the bark, something to enlarge the hole, something to collect the honey with, and something to clean themselves off with. They would not be able to get the honey if they used anyone of these tools out of order. This speaks to their intelligence.





Culture is defined as knowledge that is passed on from generation to generation. Each chimp community uses a different number of tools (i.e., the 20 item tool–kit is a combination of all tools used by all communities). Some communities crack nuts, while others use blades of grass or small twigs to fish for ants and termites. The tool use difference between communities is derived by regional food preferences. Some communities that have access to nuts may not have stone technology because they do not have a taste for the nuts that need to be opened with such tools. These food preferences and tool technology are passed on to the next generation when infants and juveniles learn the respective repertoires by watching what their mothers and the other elders in their communities eat and use. I will go over this in more detail below.

Another good example of non-human primate cultural transmission involves the Japanese macacque. They became famous during the 1950s when one female was observed washing a sweet potato in water (these potatoes were left out by researchers hoping to habituate the monkeys to their presence, as well as giving them time to study the primates up close). This technique eventually caught on because all of the monkeys started doing this. Some years later, one of these macaques started washing their potato in salty sea water. This is a common practice today because they apparently like salt just as much as humans do. This is no different than us sprinkling our food with seasoning.





A paper published in 2007, "4,300-Year-old chimpanzee sites and the origins of percussive stone technology," found that chimps have been using stone tools for at least 4 millennia. Tool use probably goes back much further than this. Man was thought to be the only one capable of using tools until researchers in the 1960s first witnessed Chimps using stone anvils. (Such tool use was actually recorded as far back as the 16th-century but forgotten. See "Reports of Chimpanzee Natural History, Including Tool Use, in 16th- and 17th-Century Sierra Leone"). So if both man and chimps use tools, our common ancestor who lived around 7 million years ago most likely used tools as well. So why hasn’t chimpanzee technology advanced like ours?

Chimpanzees have a brain that is one-third the size of ours. This limits the scope of their imagination and thinking. However, the biggest reason is that chimps and humans have totally different ways of educating their children. Young chimpanzees learn by watching what their parents do, and then the task is mastered by hours of self-practice. There is a lot of slippage using this method because a child may never master a technique, which means they will not pass it on to their own children. Most innovations in the primate world come from the young. The adults are less willing to adopt new ways of doing things. Not all of the young are guaranteed to adopt it either. This means a novel invention that might have led to a leap in primate technology could be easily forgotten to time. There is no telling how many times this has happened.

Human children, on the other hand, learn directly from adults. They are instructed in a given subject until they grasp the basics of it. In this way, children who master these subjects can build upon and improve them. This is how our technology and culture became so advanced in such a relatively short time frame. For instance, it took less than 70 years between the time of the first airplane flight in 1903 and the first moon landing in 1969. It took three generations and thousands of people building off of the accomplishments of each other for this to happen.

Something I didn't mention in the initial post is that Kanzi the bonobo is able to make advanced stone technology. He was shown knapping skills by an archaeologist a decade ago or so and has continued to produce more and more complex tools similar to early human species. Some may say he is mindlessly imitating, but the fact is that he grasps the techniques and is able to use the tools in an effective manner. Mindlessly going through the motions would not even come close to producing the same results.







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25-09-2012, 02:46 PM
RE: Chimp culture and technology
I still like that they use their hands to fling shit.

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25-09-2012, 02:57 PM
RE: Chimp culture and technology
(25-09-2012 02:46 PM)cheapthrillseaker Wrote:  I still like that they use their hands to fling shit.

Years of practice makes them expert marksmen.
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25-09-2012, 06:37 PM
RE: Chimp culture and technology
(25-09-2012 02:46 PM)cheapthrillseaker Wrote:  I still like that they use their hands to fling shit.

Kindred minds think alike.
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27-09-2012, 04:18 AM
RE: Chimp culture and technology
If you find this subject interesting you might want to look check out Irene Pepperberg and Alex the grey. Alex is unfortunatly dead now, but he made history by being the first animal to have his obituary in the economist. I don't think any other animals have. Alex was able to understand many concepts that we had always though that animals especially birds could not get. Also look at the intelligence of corvids. Crows, ravens, and rooks are extremely smart. They share knowledge with younger generations, have the ability to talk, and use many tools. They don't just use tools though, they also make them. I understand that it is the similarity between us and apes that makes it interesting, but we have much in common with birds in the way that our brains work that apes don't have.
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27-09-2012, 10:58 AM
RE: Chimp culture and technology
(27-09-2012 04:18 AM)Birdguy1979 Wrote:  If you find this subject interesting you might want to look check out Irene Pepperberg and Alex the grey. Alex is unfortunatly dead now, but he made history by being the first animal to have his obituary in the economist. I don't think any other animals have. Alex was able to understand many concepts that we had always though that animals especially birds could not get. Also look at the intelligence of corvids. Crows, ravens, and rooks are extremely smart. They share knowledge with younger generations, have the ability to talk, and use many tools. They don't just use tools though, they also make them. I understand that it is the similarity between us and apes that makes it interesting, but we have much in common with birds in the way that our brains work that apes don't have.

Alex was very talented in the sound department, he was able to reproduce the sounds correctly to indicate his understanding. There are many other parrot species that have the same understanding but lack the ability to reproduce sounds this well.

Poor Alex went downhill when all the attention given during the experiments was withdrawn. Parrots are flock animals, they do not do well without constant interaction. The intensity of daily interaction during experiments, followed by long periods of being left alone when the experiments were done, caused a lot of harm and failure to understand why he was suddenly typhoid. Poor guy!

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27-09-2012, 11:13 AM
RE: Chimp culture and technology
(27-09-2012 04:18 AM)Birdguy1979 Wrote:  I understand that it is the similarity between us and apes that makes it interesting, but we have much in common with birds in the way that our brains work that apes don't have.

Can you give an example of these similar brain functions?
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27-09-2012, 12:07 PM
RE: Chimp culture and technology
I have no links to back this up at this time BUT - experiments with parrots show them to have intelligence comparable to a 3 year old - I think that was the age. They can do puzzles - fitting colors together, fitting square blocksinto square holes and round ones into round holes etc....

They also can create a new concept out of two known ingredients.

Simple personal example:

I have a parrot who loves bananas and corn. He has seen me cut a piece of banana off a whole banana for him many times, I hold up the whole banna and ask him what it is and he answers: "Good, good banana". Then I cut a slice for him.

But he only knew corn in the shape of a 1/2 inch thick wheel of a cob as I cut the corn for him on a cutting board where he cannot see me. I hold up the wheel of corn and he tells me it"s "good, good corn". (all edibles are "good, good")

One day I held up a whole corn cob and asked what it was. He had never seen a whole cob before.

He answered: Good, good cornana.

Think about it.

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27-09-2012, 12:20 PM
RE: Chimp culture and technology
(27-09-2012 12:07 PM)Dom Wrote:  I have no links to back this up at this time BUT - experiments with parrots show them to have intelligence comparable to a 3 year old - I think that was the age. They can do puzzles - fitting colors together, fitting square blocksinto square holes and round ones into round holes etc....

They also can create a new concept out of two known ingredients.

[...]

Thanks for the examples. I've never had a parrot, but I know how intelligent they can be. I'm extremely interested in animal intelligence. I recently purchased a book that compares and contrasts the cognitive development of human and chimp children. I'm still waiting for it to arrive.
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27-09-2012, 12:32 PM
RE: Chimp culture and technology
This video illustrates some of the differences between chimp and human child intelligence:



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