Natural chefs? Chimps learn to use an oven, sparking debate on how humans learned to cook

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Kanzi the bonobo (a species closely related to chimps) holds a pan of vegetables he cooked at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, November 2011. Kanzi was taught to cook. However, a study shows that animals can acquire a cooking-like skill on their own. Credit: Laurentiu Garofeanu/Barcroft Media.
Kanzi the bonobo (a species closely related to chimps) holds a pan of vegetables he cooked at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, November 2011. Kanzi was taught to cook. However, a study shows that animals can acquire a cooking-like skill on their own. Credit: Laurentiu Garofeanu/Barcroft Media.

If you give a chimp an oven, he or she will learn to cook.

That’s what scientists concluded from a study that could help explain how and when early humans first began cooking their food.

“This suggests that as soon as fire was controlled, cooking could have ramped up,” says Alexandra Rosati, an evolutionary biologist at Yale.

“You can think of it as a chimpanzee microwave where, basically, if the chimpanzees placed raw food in the device and then we shook the device, [the food] came out cooked,” says Rosati….

After providing the “oven,” Rosati and Warneken gave the chimps slices of uncooked white sweet potato. “At first, the chimps pretty much ate the food. But then you almost could see them have this insight like, Oh, my goodness, I can put it in this device and it comes back cooked,” Rosati says.

The results add to a debate about whether early humans had the brain power to figure out cooking, an activity that requires planning, a willingness to delay gratification and sophisticated use of a tool.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Chimps Are No Chumps: Give Them An Oven, They’ll Learn To Cook

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia.

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