Why Are Chimpanzees So Smart

The super intelligent chimpanzees of the new movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes may only exist on the big screen, but in real life, the great apes are still the brains of the animal kingdom.

Ape intelligence testing got a major boost in the 1960s in Gombe, Tanzania, when Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees using a twig to “fish” for ants (depicted in a stock photo): the earliest documentation of wild chimpanzees making and using tools. Up until then, toolmaking had been considered a purely human skill.

The idea is that [tool use] requires a higher intelligence, because it requires you to reshape what the nature has provided to achieve the user’s goal”, Anne Russon, a monkey intelligence expert at the University Canadian from York, he said via email.

Since the discovery of toolmaking, scientists have discovered that our closest cousins ​​can use sign language, hunt with spears of their own design, and even beat college students on basic memory tests, among other skills.

(Related: “Chimpanzees shown using not just a tool but a ‘toolkit.'”)

—Christine Dell’Amore

The superintelligent chimpanzees from the new movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes may only exist on the big screen, but in real life, the great apes are still the brains of the animal kingdom. Evidence of monkey intelligence got a major boost in the 1960s in Gombe, Tanzania, when Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees using a twig to “fish” for ants (depicted in a file photo): the earliest documentation of wild chimpanzees making and using tools. Until then, toolmaking had been considered a uniquely human skill. “The idea is that [using the tool] requires a higher intelligence, because it requires reshaping what nature has provided to achieve the user’s goal,” Anne Russon, an expert in technology, said in an email. monkey intelligence at York’s University. Since the discovery of toolmaking, scientists have discovered that our closest cousins ​​can use sign language, hunt with spears of their own design, and even beat college students on basic memory tests, among other skills. (Related: “Chimps shown using not just a tool but a ‘toolkit'”) —Christine Dell’Amore

Why Are Chimpanzees So Smart

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Four years after it first appeared in Norwegian waters wearing a photo harness, the beluga whale is on the move and may be in danger. Anfisa, an 8-year-old female chimpanzee, washes a window of her enclosure where she lives at the Royev Ruchey Zoo in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia January 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin)

Chimps don’t get their intelligence just by imitating other chimps, like humans, they inherit a significant amount of their intelligence from their parents, new research reveals.

Researchers measured the performance of 99 captive chimpanzees in a series of cognitive tests, finding that genes determined up to 50% of the animals’ performance.

“Genes matter,” said William Hopkins, a neuroscientist at Georgia State University in Atlanta and co-author of the study published today (July 10) in the journal Current Biology. [Top 5 Smartest Non-Primates on the Planet]

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“We have what we would call a smart chimp and chimps that we would call not so smart,” Hopkins told Live Science, and “we were able to explain a lot of that variability by who was related to each other.”

People usually don’t talk about animal intelligence, but rather about animal learning or cognition. American psychologists John Watson and B.F. Skinner developed the notion of behaviorism in the early 20th century that scientists should study only the behavior of animals, not their thought processes. This was the dominant approach until about 1985.

But in recent decades, studies have convincingly shown that animals are capable of cognition. What remained unknown was the mechanism behind it, Hopkins said. Many studies of human twins suggest that intelligence is heritable, but few studies have tested whether this is true in other primates.

In the new study, Hopkins and his colleagues gave chimpanzees at the Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta a battery of cognitive tests adapted from those developed by German researchers to compare humans and great apes. The tests measured a range of abilities in physical cognition, such as the ability to discriminate quantity, spatial memory and use of tools. The tests also looked at aspects of social cognition, such as communication skills.

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Researchers created a genetic pedigree of chimpanzees, showing how they were related to each other. It would be like taking a group of 300 random people, sticking them on another planet where they could reproduce and have children, and have their intelligence tested 50 years later, Hopkins said.

About half of the variability in chimps’ performance on cognitive tests could be attributed to their relatedness, the results showed. “I was a little surprised by that. He was taller than I thought,” Hopkins said.

Furthermore, neither the sex of the animals nor their breeding history (whether they were raised by their mother or by humans) appeared to influence cognitive performance, the researchers found.

In humans, some people believe that intelligence is primarily the result of schooling. But for chimpanzees, that may not be a factor, since they don’t go to school, Hopkins said. “The fact that we can establish this in an organism that doesn’t have the baggage of our socio-cultural systems strongly points to the role that genes play in their intelligence,” he said.

I Know Chimpanzees Are Really Intelligent, But It Shocks Me Seeing Such Humanlike Behaviour.

Alex Weiss, a psychologist who studies nonhuman primates at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland who was not involved in the study, said the findings are ‘really interesting, particularly as these results mirror what has been found to decades in human twin studies and human families.” It provides just one more example of the similarities between chimpanzees and humans, Weiss told Live Science.

But while the findings suggest that “nature” matters slightly more than “nurture” for intelligence, Hopkins said other findings don’t support this interpretation. Environment and experience still have an influence on cognitive performance. For example, if you compare chimpanzees who were trained to use sign language with those who haven’t, the trained animals perform much better on tests of cognition, he said. “So there’s a case where education really matters.”

Curiously, the study findings support the idea of ​​general intelligence, rather than the theory of multiple intelligences such as mathematical, verbal or musical ability developed by the American psychologist Howard Gardner. General intelligence suggests that individuals possess a general learning ability that makes it likely that a person possessing one form of intelligence will possess others.

Next, the researchers will attempt to replicate their findings in another chimpanzee colony. They also hope to incorporate brain scans of chimpanzees to establish whether inherited characteristics of intelligence are related to specific structures in the cerebral cortex. Finally, they aim to look for specific genes related to intelligence, to see how these might be passed on in chimpanzees. Unlike human brains, chimpanzee brains do not experience a rapid burst of neural connectivity during the first two years of life, which could explain superior human intelligence. Etsuko Nogami / Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University

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Chimpanzees: Intelligent, Social And Violent

Despite sharing 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, humans have much larger brains and are, as a species, much more intelligent. Now a new study sheds light on why: Unlike chimpanzees, humans experience a massive burst in the growth of white matter, or the connections between brain cells, in the first two years of life.

The new findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Tuesday, explain in part why humans are so much more intelligent than our closest living relatives. But they also reveal why the first two years of life play such an important role in human development.

“What’s really unique about us is that our brains experience a rapid build-up of connectivity in the first couple of years of life,” said Chet Sherwood, an evolutionary neuroscientist at George Washington University who was not involved in the study. “This probably helps explain why those early years of human life are so critical in setting us on the path to acquiring language, cultural knowledge and all those things that make us human.”

Chimpanzee Although previous studies have shown that the human brain goes through a rapid expansion of connectivity, it wasn’t clear that it was unique among the great apes (a group that includes chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and humans). To prove that it was the signature of humanity’s superior intelligence, researchers would have to show that it was different from that of our closest living relatives.

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However, a US moratorium on acquiring new chimpanzees for medical research has meant that people like Sherwood, who is trying to understand chimpanzee brain development, have had to study the brains of decades-old baby chimpanzees lying in labs. of veterinary pathologists,

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