Stories tagged chimps

Apr
08
2009

Meet up or meat up?: A study of chimps in Africa has found that males who share meat they've hunted with females have twice as great a chance of breeding with that female.
Meet up or meat up?: A study of chimps in Africa has found that males who share meat they've hunted with females have twice as great a chance of breeding with that female.Courtesy LeaMaimone
Does this sound familiar?

Male chimps that are more generous to the females they’re attracted to have a better chance of, um, hooking up later on.

That is the finding in a study recently conducted in the West African nation of Côte d'Ivoire.

In the case of the chimps, it wasn’t the males’ bestowing of flowers, jewelry or gifts to females that won over their hearts. Rather, it was meat.

In short, the study found that male chimps who shared with females meat they had captured had twice as much chance of breeding with that female, than male chimps who didn’t share meat with females. (Quit your snickering all you Beavis and Butt-head fans.)

Among chimps, males are the sole hunters of other animals to gather meat. Females depend on their generosity to get protein in their diet. And they provide a signal to males as to when they’re especially ready to find some male companionship – pink swellings on their bottoms are a visual clue to the males that the females are ovulating and sexually available.

But upon further study, researchers also found that male chimps were also willing to share meat with females who weren’t in heat. The researchers surmise that the males might be doing that to build up good will among that female to improve mating chances down the road.

In a different twist on this, a separate study has found that female orangutans will steal food from males to watch their reaction and assess if the male is suitable to mate with. Overly aggressive reactions by males will actually make females less likely to want to mate with them.

Due to a lack of video stores in the study areas, no research was able to be done on the effects of watching a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy had on ape mating behaviors.

It’s Super Bowl week – the ultimate exercise of male bonding. So it’s only right that research is announced this week that male chimps exhibit stronger signs of bonding within their gender than females chimps do within theirs. And there’s no football involved!!

Oct
02
2008

Turn around: I think I might know you from somewhere else.
Turn around: I think I might know you from somewhere else.Courtesy Aaron Logan
So here’s a project that researchers must have had a lot of laughs doing. They’ve found that chimps are as likely to remember a fellow acquaintance of their species by their butt as by their face.

Captive chimps were able to match up at a high rate of success photos of rear ends and faces of chimps they’d previously met. Here’s how it worked:

Each participating chimp was flashed a picture of another's rear end, with visible genitals, then shown the face of the derriere's owner and another face of the same gender.

Both males and females were successful in this anatomical match game, pairing faces and posteriors with much greater frequency than chance alone—but only if the photos showed chimps they already knew.

You are now free to go ahead and make up your own J-Lo joke.

Jane Goodall, the internationally-known chimp researcher, will be making a pair of public appreances at the University of Minnesota on Saturday. Here's a link to the details. Both events are free and open to the public.

Dec
04
2007

What are you looking at smarty pants?: So you humans think you're smarter than me, huh? Well I dare you to challenge me in a memory test. Common, I dare you.
What are you looking at smarty pants?: So you humans think you're smarter than me, huh? Well I dare you to challenge me in a memory test. Common, I dare you.Courtesy deVos
Next time you’re having a short-term memory crisis, like trying to remember where you last put your car keys, try to think more like a chimp.

At least that’s a conclusion you can draw from the recent study done by Japanese researchers. Young chimps outperformed human adults in a two different tests of short-term memory abilities.

Here’s what happened. Researchers used three 5-year-old chimps that had been taught the numeric order of the numerals 1 to 9. They also had a group of a dozen adult humans.

Participants saw the nine numbers displayed on a computer screen. The moment that they touched “1,” the other numerals turned into white boxes and the participants had to touch those boxes in numeric order.

While there was no difference in the accuracy of the task between chimps and humans, the chimps could do it faster. And chimp Ayumu was by far the best, so researchers pitted him against humans in another task.

In the second test, the numbers 1 to 5 flashed briefly on the screen and then changed to white boxes. Participants again had to touch the boxes in the order of their corresponding numeral.

When the time between number and box was set at seven-tenths of a second, both Ayumu and the chimps were accurate about 80 percent of the time. But when the time between the flash was cut by one-third or one half, Ayumu was still accurate about 80 percent of the time while the humans dropped down to 40 percent.

In even further testing, three humans were given six weeks of training on the number flashing tests, but still could not catch up to the speed or accuracy of the chimps.

Here's a link to a collection of video footage of the chimps and humans doing the memory tasks.

The researchers think there are two main factors accounting for this significant difference between chimps and humans.

1) Through evolution of our brains, humans have developed language abilities that have squeezed out some brain processing for short-term memory like this tests gauge.

2) Young humans might be a fairer test against young chimps. Memory of images and shapes is skill more often found in children, but diminishes with age. In further testing, the researchers found that young chimps were better at the tests than older chimps.

The conclusion I’m drawing from all of this – I don’t want to square off against a young chimp in a game of Concentration, that’s for sure.

What do you think about all of this? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Here's the link to the USA Today story on this research project.

Nov
02
2007


A natural poker face: Chimps prove to be more rational players than humans. Photo by belgianchocolate at Flickr.com

Are chimpanzees smarter than people? Only if you’re a Vulcan who believes that rationality and intelligence are the same thing.

Researchers taught chimps how to play a sharing game. A chip was given a prize, but could only keep it if he offered to share it with the other player, and the other player agreed to take what was offered. If the offer was refused, neither player got anything.

They then taught humans how to play the same game. The researchers found that the chimps always accepted any offer, while the humans often rejected offers that they felt were too low. At the end of the game, the chimps ended up with more prizes than the human players.

According to the article,

The researchers concluded chimpanzees do not show a willingness to make fair offers and reject unfair ones. In this way, they protect their self interest and are unwilling to pay a cost to punish someone they perceive as unfair.

An equally valid interpretation would be that the chimps didn’t understand the meaning of “fair” or “unfair.” Another interpretation would be that the chimps figured out this was a stupid game, and accepted every offer just to end it quickly, while the humans tried to figure out how to win.

Perhaps chimps ain’t so dumb after all.

* (With apologies to Abe Simpson)