Monkeys’ grooming habits provide new insights into how we socialise

October 2nd, 2009 - 1:57 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 2 (IANS) Monkeys’ grooming habits provide new insights into how we socialise, says a new study.
The study shows a link between the size of the brain, in particular the neocortex — responsible for higher-level thinking — and the size and number of grooming clusters that monkeys belong to.

Researchers from the universities of Oxford and Roehampton have shown that bigger brained female monkeys invest more time grooming a smaller group of monkeys.

But they still manage to maintain contact with other members of their group, though they have much weaker social bonds with them.

Conversely, monkeys of species with smaller neocortices, and therefore less cognitive (mental) ability, live in groups with a less complicated social structure.

Robin Dunbar, professor at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Studies at Oxford University, said: “These findings give us glimpses into how humans manage the complex business of maintaining coherence in social groups that are much larger than those found in any other primate species.

“Our neocortex is three times larger than that of monkeys and apes, and this allows us to manage larger, more dispersed social groups as a result.”

An analysis of data on the grooming patterns of 11 species of Old World monkeys suggests the relative size of the neocortex is the key factor, rather than overall brain size, said an Oxford university statement.

These findings were published in the September issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

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