What gave rise to tool use among primates?

Primates use all kinds of tools in the wild to acquire food resources. For example, chimpanzees use stones to crack open nuts and sticks to harvest aggressive army ants. Orangutans also use stick tools to prey on insects, as well as to extract seeds from fruits. Bearded capuchin monkeys that live in savannah-like environments also use a variety of tools also employ the stone method for nuts while utilizing sticks to dig for tubers.

But these primates did not invent such tools because they needed to – a realization that seemed counterintuitive to researchers. Rather than prompted by food scarcity like they previously thought, tool use is simply determined by the local environment. When chimps, orangutans and bearded capuchin monkeys alike encounter calorie-rich but hard-to-reach foodstuffs, such as nuts and honey, it seems to act as an incentive for an ingenious use of materials.

“By ecological opportunity, we mean the likelihood of encountering tool materials and resources whose exploitation requires the use of tools. We showed that these ecological opportunities influence the occurrence of tool use. The resources extracted using tools, such as nuts and honey, are among the richest in primate habitats. Hence, extraction pays off, and not just during times of food scarcity,” said Dr. Kathelijne Koops of the University of Cambridge in a statement.

The idea that the environment is a bigger influence on primates than originally believed changes the “method of exclusion” argument – the theory that simple ecological and genetic differences alone cannot account for the variation in behavior between humans and non-human primates – such as tool use.

“Given our close genetic links to our primate cousins, their tool use may provide valuable insights into how humans developed their extraordinary material culture and technology,” Koops added.

Read full, original article: Ecological Opportunity Prompts Tool Use Among Primates

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
ft covidresponseus feature

Video: Viewpoint: The US wrote the global playbook on the coronavirus and then ignored it

A year ago, the United States was regarded as the country best prepared for a pandemic. Our government had spent ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend