When fire approaches, chimps don’t run-they dance with it

January 7th, 2010 - 12:18 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Jan 7 (ANI): Chimps were known for dancing in rainstorms, but it has recently been found that primates can perform “fire dance” too.

A dominant male chimp performed such a dance in the face of a raging savannah fire in Senegal.

Anthropologist Jill Pruetz of Iowa State University in Ames recounts that the male faced the fire with “a really exaggerated slow-motion display” before redirecting his display at chimps sheltering in a nearby baobab tree.

In fact, the researchers even heard barking vocalisations from the male, which were never observed in more than 2000 hours of monitoring the group.

Pruetz and co-author Thomas LaDuke at the East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, have suggested that the chimps were cognisant enough to predict the fire’s movement, retreating short distances at a time while staying calm.

On the other hand, other animals panic when fire approaches.

“If chimps with their small brain size can conceptually deal with fire, then maybe we should rethink some of the earliest evidence for fire usage,” New Scientist quoted Pruetz as saying.

The earliest confirmed evidence of controlled fire use dates to several thousand years ago but some palaeoanthropologists argue control began as far back as 1 to 2 million years ago.

The chimps’ responses to two fires - set for land clearance - were seen in 2006.

Primatologist William McGrew at the University of Cambridge is wary of granting chimps a “conceptualisation of fire”, but he said that further work could yield interesting results.

The study is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. (ANI)

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