[Marxism] Wild gorillas seen to use tools
calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com
Mon Oct 3 04:50:16 MDT 2005
What's fascinating is the similarity between what these creatures have done
and what we do
Gorillas have been seen for the first time using simple tools to perform
tasks in the wild, researchers say.
Scientists observed gorillas in a remote Congolese forest using sticks to
test the depth of muddy water and to cross swampy areas.
Wild chimps and orangutans also use tools, suggesting that the origins of
tool use may predate the evolutionary split between apes and humans.
Gorillas are endangered, with some populations numbered in the hundreds.
"We've been observing gorillas for 10 years here, and we have two cases of
them using detached objects as tools," said Thomas Breuer, from the Wildlife
Conservation Society (WCS), who heads the study team in Nouabalé-Ndoki
National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"In the first case, we had a female crossing a pool; and this female has
crossed this pool by using a detached stick and testing the water depth, and
trying to use it as a walking stick," he told the BBC.
The second case saw another female gorilla pick up the trunk of a dead shrub
and use it to lean on while dredging for food in a swamp.
She then placed the trunk down on the swampy ground and used it as a bridge.
"What's fascinating about these observations is the similarity between what
these creatures have done, and what we do in the context of crossing a
pond," observed Dr Breuer.
"The most astonishing thing is that we have observed them using tools not
for obtaining food, but for postural support."
In the family
This discovery makes the gorilla the last of the great apes to be documented
using tools in the wild.
Chimpanzees use stone tools to process food, and their close relatives
bonobos will use the mashed ends of sticks to soak up liquids.
Orangutans - the only Asian great ape - use branches to forage for food, and
leaves to modify their calls.
Though some monkeys and birds also use tools, Thomas Breuer believes that
the great apes are special.
"We have now seen tool use in all the great apes in the wild," he said.
"That now makes us think that it might be the case that tool use has been an
ancient trait of all great apes before the human lineage split away."
Current scientific orthodoxy holds that the separation between the
chimpanzee and human lines came about six million years ago.
Research has shown that in captivity, apes can learn a range of skills
including number and character recognition.
They can also learn tool use and transmit their acquired skills to other
members of their social group.
The Congo team, drawn from the WCS and the Max-Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, believes that the tool traits
they have observed in the wild may also be shared and learned across gorilla
They publish their findings in the online journal Public Library of Science
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/09/30 11:54:25 GMT
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