Sunday, February 28, 2010

Orangutans and Human Evoluation

The Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology conducted an investigation pertaining to Orangutan problem solving skills. Orangutans were given a tube with a floating peanut inside, and an incentive (reward) to get the peanut out of the tube. All the orangutans collected water from a well and spat it inside the tube to get the peanut!

This is a very fascinating discovery because it shows the thinking capacity of orangutans. They can problem-solve on their own, as well as use water as a tool.

Orangutans also make musical instruments, by taking leaves off a twig. Scientists say that this is the first time an animal has been “known to use a tool to help it communicate”.

The orangutans will put the leaves in their mouth to lower the frequency of their call. This helps ward off predators, and orangutans will use this when they feel threatened, and to communicate to other orangutans nearby. The leaves make their call sound ‘bigger’ so the predators think they are dealing with a large animal, even if the are not.

Orangutans frequently use and make tools to obtain food, and some are quite innovative.
Tool making is how we trace the evolution of human culture.

Jane Goodall observed chimpanzee’s making tools, and on her website it says: Until then, experts thought humans were the only animals who could make tools. In fact, tool-making was part of scientists' definition of "human.”
If tool-making was something only humans could do, does this make chimps human? Jane’s discovery opened a new debate about what it really means to be a human being.

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