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Chimp see, chimp learn: First evidence for chimps improving tool use techniques by watching others

Date:
January 30, 2013
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Chimps can learn more efficient ways to use a tool by watching what others do, according to new research. Their study presents the first experimental evidence that chimps, like humans, can watch and learn a group member's invention of a better technique.
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This image is of the "dipping" technique performed by chimpanzee Ayumu. He uses his mouth to insert the tube into the bottle. In form, his technique is identical to the "straw-sucking" technique. However, instead of leaving the tube in and retrieving the juice via sucking, he removes the tube and licks the tip.
Credit: Credit: Citation: Yamamoto S, Humle T, Tanaka M (2013) Basis for Cumulative Cultural Evolution in Chimpanzees: Social Learning of a More Efficient Tool-Use Technique. PLOS ONE 8(1): e55768. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055768

Chimps can learn more efficient ways to use a tool by watching what others do, according to research published Jan. 30 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Shinya Yamamoto and colleagues from Kyoto University and Kent University, UK. Their study presents the first experimental evidence that chimps, like humans, can watch and learn a group member's invention of a better technique.

Chimps in the study were provided juice-boxes with a small hole and straws to drink with. One group of chimps used the straws like dipsticks, dipping and removing them to suck on the end, while the other group learned to suck through the straw directly. Learning both techniques required the same cognitive and motor skills, but chimps that drank through the straw got considerably more juice in a shorter amount of time. When the first group of chimps watched either a human or a chimp demonstrate the more efficient 'straw-sucking' technique, all of them switched to using this instead.

The study concludes, "When chimpanzees are dissatisfied with their own technique, they may socially learn an improved technique by closely observing a proficient demonstrator."

According to the authors, their results provide insights into the cognitive basis for the evolution of culture in chimpanzees, and suggest ways that culture could evolve in non-human animals.

The present study was financially supported by grants-in-aid from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan (MEXT: 20002001, 24000001, and MEXT special grant ''Human Evolution'' to T. Matsuzawa) and from Japan Society for the promotion of Science (JSPS: 18-3451, 21-9340, 22800034 and 40585767 to S. Yamamoto).


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Shinya Yamamoto, Tatyana Humle, Masayuki Tanaka. Basis for Cumulative Cultural Evolution in Chimpanzees: Social Learning of a More Efficient Tool-Use Technique. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (1): e55768 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055768

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Public Library of Science. "Chimp see, chimp learn: First evidence for chimps improving tool use techniques by watching others." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184158.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2013, January 30). Chimp see, chimp learn: First evidence for chimps improving tool use techniques by watching others. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184158.htm
Public Library of Science. "Chimp see, chimp learn: First evidence for chimps improving tool use techniques by watching others." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184158.htm (accessed August 1, 2015).

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