Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tool-using gorillas intrigue scientists

It seems that scientists haven't kept up with the observed behavior of Koko, Michael and Ndume at Penny Patterson's Gorilla Foundation over the past 30 years, if they are surprised by gorilla tool use!

"GOMA, Congo - An infant gorilla in a Congo sanctuary is smashing palm nuts between two rocks to extract oil, surprising and intriguing scientists who say they have much to learn about what gorillas can do — and about the implications for evolution.It had been thought that the premeditated use of stones and sticks to accomplish a task like cracking nuts was restricted to humans and the smaller, more agile chimpanzees.

Then in late September, keepers at a Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International sanctuary in this eastern Congo city saw 2 1/2-year-old female gorilla Itebero smashing palm nuts between rocks in the "hammer and anvil" technique, considered among the most complex tool use behaviors.

"This is a surprising finding, given what we know about tool use in gorillas," Patrick Mehlman, a primatologist for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, said earlier this month at his Goma office." Posted by Picasa

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