Like humans, monkeys too may form traditions and cultures

May 21st, 2008 - 5:39 pm ICT by admin  

London, May 21 (ANI): Just like humans, monkeys may form traditions and cultures, says a new research.

In order to prove the finding, Scottish scientists are using a pioneering new research facility.

On May 20, the renowned chimpanzee expert Dr Jane Goodall opened the 1.6 million pounds centre at Edinburgh Zoo where the similarities between monkeys and humans, will be studied.

The Living Links to Human Evolution centre will enable scientists from the University of St Andrews to study the ways in which communities of monkeys behave.

Goodall believes that humans did not previously accept the links between humans and their relatives because they were “arrogant”.

“I think it’s completely fascinating. If you are interested at all in how the human came to be the rather peculiar primates we are, the more we need to know these primates. People used to think monkeys can’t do the same sort of things chimpanzees do because their brains are smaller, The Scotsman quoted Goodall, as saying.

“Now we find capuchins (a type of monkey] using sticks and stones in sophisticated ways. We can learn an awful lot about their social behaviour, she added.

The facility, which is open to the public, is made up of two very similar enclosures, which each contain a mix of squirrel monkeys and capuchins.

Scientists will introduce specific types of behaviour into one group and not the other, to find out whether it develops into a local tradition within that community.

Professor Andrew Whiten from the University of St Andrews, who is director of the new centre, said: “Monkeys behave in different ways in different places. That suggests maybe these could be local traditions.”

One experiment could be to show one group a video of monkeys in the wild cracking open nuts. They will then study whether that group learns the technique and watch to find out if it becomes a tradition among those monkeys but not in the other group.

“If they start doing that behaviour and the others don’t, then we have strong scientific evidence,” said Whiten.

Another technique would be to give the monkeys an artificial fruit that is very difficult to open, with a food treat inside. The researchers will teach a different method of opening the “fruit” to each group, and will study whether they pick up that technique as a local tradition.

Whiten added: “Some big questions will lie behind our research at the new Living Links centre, such as ‘what makes us human?’ We want to find out all the ways in which these primates share some of our mental abilities, and just where the difference begin.”

Charlotte Macdonald, head gamekeeper at Living Links, said just like two groups of humans, the two enclosures of monkeys were made up of different personalities.

“One group is very confident and bold. The other is a bit more shy. They are just fascinating. It’s like a soap opera, Macdonald said.

She added: “At the end of the day humans are animals. Obviously we have become more cultured and sophisticated, but we are still animals.” (ANI)

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