The Primate in You

Posted on by Ashley Fruno

chimp portraitFor years now, scientists have been telling us about the similarities between us and other mammals—particularly primates. Every now and then, though, a startling observation makes even nonbelievers stop in their tracks.

A news report from Current Biology shows that chimpanzees in Uganda may use sticks as dolls. In the Kanyawara community, chimpanzees shun Barbie dolls in lieu of twigs and branches, carrying them around the way that children use dolls as human surrogates.

Not only are they tucked in at night and put to bed, the sticks are also often taken from tree to tree, patted and embraced—and even protected. Researchers contend that this behavior may be practice for adulthood, as female chimpanzees were more likely to exhibit such actions than males.

While we often sit back and marvel at the outrageous imaginations that our offspring share with us, this research sheds new light on the imaginations of chimpanzees and their ability to conceptualize inanimate objects as living individuals—just like we all once did.

Posted by Robert Fry