(ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE) Is the rise of the planet of the apes here? Already a master of sign language, Kanzi, a bonobo (formerly called pygmy chimpanzees), has moved on to creating and using tools in a new way. Although not a novel feat for the highly intelligent bonobos, the variety and technical sophistication of the tools Kanzi has created is startling. These tools are remarkably similar to those shaped by early Homosapiens 2.5 million years ago. Read on to learn more about how close our closest relatives really are to rising up and taking over. — Global Animal
The Guardian, Flora Malein
A species of ape has been observed in captivity making and using flint tools. Kanzi, a 30-year-old male bonobo (previously known as pygmy chimpanzees) has already mastered sign language.
After some training in flint knapping, he created and used the tools to break apart logs and dig out concealed food – the first time this level of technological sophistication in tool use has been observed in non-humans.
Dr Eviatar Nevo and his colleagues at the University of Haifa, Israel, observed Kanzi using a total of 156 tools to break into the logs to get at the food. The experiment replicated conditions that chimps would have found in the wild and mimics scenarios facing early humans who used tools to break apart bones to get at the bone marrow.
The authors write in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “To accomplish these activities, [Kanzi] produced and used a wider variety of tool types than hitherto reported, with more complex uses, which formed wear patterns very similar to those produced by early [humans].” They speculate that the potential for tool use existed in the common ancestor of chimps and humans.
While a companion bonobo only succeeded at the task by breaking the logs on the floor, Kanzi used a variety of tools and novel techniques to crack the task. He used smaller flints like a drill bit and to scrape along the log’s glue seams, while he used larger pieces as axes or wedges to split it apart to reveal the food. In the digging task, Kanzi made a flat oval flake which he used as a spade.
While tool use has been observed in other animal species, until now no animal has been observed making and using tools to the same degree of technological sophistication as our Hominin ancestors. It could simply be that Kanzi is a special case. Raised in a specialised environment, with frequent human contact, Kanzi has advantages that would not exist in the wild.
Nor is it clear whether he would have been able to create the flint tools if he had not been previously taught how.
Still, the similarity between the wear on Kanzi’s tools and those seen in early Homo artifacts from 2.5m years ago sheds further light on the relationship between tool use and the development of early modern humans.