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Bonobos use tools on a “pre-agricultural” level?

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bonobo/Itay Roffman

From ScienceDaily:

Among other findings, a bonobo was observed for the first time making and using spears in a social setting for the purpose of attack and defense. “I believe that the current study will break down our cultural hang-up as humans concerning the inherent capabilities and potential of bonobos and chimpanzees,” says Itai Roffman of the Institute of Evolution at the University of Haifa, who undertook the study …

Interestingly, the bonobos are considered less sophisticated than their chimpanzee siblings. Chimpanzees have been observed in nature using branches to dig for tubers in the ground and to break into termite nests and beehives. As part of their cultural diversity, they have also been documented breaking nuts with hammer and anvil, and even manipulating branches into spears for use in hunting small prosimians that hide in tree hollows. By contrast, bonobos were known as a social species that engages in extensive sexual behavior and have not been observed in nature using tools. Roffman’s doctorate thesis (under the supervision of Professors Eviatar Nevo and Avraham Ronen of the University of Haifa) examines diverse pre-human/Homo characteristics among chimpanzees and bonobos. Three years ago, Roffman already managed to show that two bonobos were capable of preparing and using a range of early Homo type stone tools in order to reach inaccessible food in natural contexts. These two bonobos — famous siblings Kanzi and Pan-banisha — grew up in a human environment and have even learned to communicate using computerized English Lexigram symbols, allowing them to competently engage in rational discourse with humans.

More.

Okay. As soon as someone starts talking about “our cultural hang-up as humans concerning the inherent capabilities and potential of bonobos and chimpanzees,” we had better check the wind sock.

Chimpanzees use tools, so do ravens, and a variety of other species. So, while bonobo tool use is an interesting find, it is not a major or unexpected discovery.

It’s not clear what “pre-agricultural” means, but if we could come back fifteen thousand years from now, bonobos will probably still be doing it the same say.

The bonobos are not engaging in “rational discourse” with humans. They are using a sign language taught to them by humans. Alex the parrot also learned that. The trouble is, none of these species invent, develop, or pass on such languages, probably because they do not need them except to communicate with humans.

It’s quite possible that friendly contact with humans plays a role in how easily bonobos adapt to tools. They have hands, after all, so it isn’t difficult for them to see in principle, what could be done. A variety of animals can be taught to manipulate objects; they tend to reach a plateau that meets their needs and then stop learning*. But it is fun while it lasts.

Note: We wish the authors would not use the term “cultural diversity” in these times. It tends to precious little asshats invading and demonstrating in campus libraries.
The bonobos are actually working for a living, and deserve every help and support.

See also: See also: Matching Darwin’s “Tree of Life,” the “Tree of Intelligence”
comes crashing down

and

What can we hope to learn about animal minds?

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* Question: Did this octopus ever see a human open a jar?

Here’s the abstract:

Abstract…The competent and diverse tool-assisted extractive foraging by the bonobos corroborates and complements the extensive information on similar tool use by chimpanzees, suggesting that such competence is a shared trait. Better performance by the sanctuary bonobos than the zoo group was probably due to differences in their cultural exposure and housing conditions. The bonobos’ foraging techniques resembled some of those attributed to Oldowan hominins, implying that they can serve as referential models. Am J Phys Anthropol 158:78–91, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (paywall) – Itai Roffman, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Elizabeth Rubert-Pugh, André Stadler, Avraham Ronen, Eviatar Nevo. Preparation and use of varied natural tools for extractive foraging by bonobos (Pan Paniscus). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2015; 158 (1): 78 DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22778

6 Replies to “Bonobos use tools on a “pre-agricultural” level?

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    What’s the big deal?
    Haven’t we heard about lots of monkeys typing Shakespeare’s sonnets?
    🙂

  2. 2
    bFast says:

    They’re getting pretty close too, one monkey totally wrote “When forty winters shall besiege thy brow” backwards, with only 8 spelling errors. Believe it?

  3. 3
    Dionisio says:

    bFast,

    of course! why not? 🙂

  4. 4
    bornagain says:

    Monkey Theory Proven Wrong:
    Excerpt: A group of faculty and students in the university’s media program left a computer in the monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo in southwest England, home to six Sulawesi crested macaques. Then, they waited. At first, said researcher Mike Phillips, “the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it. “Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard,” added Phillips, who runs the university’s Institute of Digital Arts and Technologies. Eventually, monkeys Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan produced five pages of text, composed primarily of the letter S. Later, the letters A, J, L and M crept in — not quite literature.
    http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/.....051103.htm

    Infinite monkey theorem
    Excerpt: “One computer program run by Dan Oliver of Scottsdale, Arizona, according to an article in The New Yorker, came up with a result on August 4, 2004: After the group had worked for 42,162,500,000 billion billion monkey-years, one of the “monkeys” typed, “VALENTINE. Cease toIdor:eFLP0FRjWK78aXzVOwm)-‘;8.t” The first 19 letters of this sequence can be found in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”. Other teams have reproduced 18 characters from “Timon of Athens”, 17 from “Troilus and Cressida”, and 16 from “Richard II”.[24]
    A website entitled The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator, launched on July 1, 2003, contained a Java applet that simulates a large population of monkeys typing randomly, with the stated intention of seeing how long it takes the virtual monkeys to produce a complete Shakespearean play from beginning to end. For example, it produced this partial line from Henry IV, Part 2, reporting that it took “2,737,850 million billion billion billion monkey-years” to reach 24 matching characters:

    RUMOUR. Open your ears; 9r”5j5&?OWTY Z0d…”
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_monkey_theorem

    The story of the Monkey Shakespeare Simulator Project
    Excerpt: Starting with 100 virtual monkeys typing, and doubling the population every few days, it put together random strings of characters. It then checked them against the archived works of Shakespeare. Before it was scrapped, the site came up with 10^35 number of pages, all typed up. Any matches?
    Not many. It matched two words, “now faire,” and a partial name from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and three words and a comma, “Let fame, that,” from Love’s Labour’s Lost. The record, achieved suitably randomly at the beginning of the site’s run in 2004, was 23 characters long, including breaks and spaces.
    http://io9.com/5809583/the-sto.....or-project

    Can Monkeys Type Shakespeare? (Doing the math) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkEvzRMEP3s

    Dilbert – infinite monkeys – cartoon
    http://dilbert.com/fast/2013-12-12/

    Book Review – Meyer, Stephen C. Signature in the Cell. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
    Excerpt: As early as the 1960s, those who approached the problem of the origin of life from the standpoint of information theory and combinatorics observed that something was terribly amiss. Even if you grant the most generous assumptions: that every elementary particle in the observable universe is a chemical laboratory randomly splicing amino acids into proteins every Planck time for the entire history of the universe, there is a vanishingly small probability that even a single functionally folded protein of 150 amino acids would have been created. Now of course, elementary particles aren’t chemical laboratories, nor does peptide synthesis take place where most of the baryonic mass of the universe resides: in stars or interstellar and intergalactic clouds. If you look at the chemistry, it gets even worse—almost indescribably so: the precursor molecules of many of these macromolecular structures cannot form under the same prebiotic conditions—they must be catalysed by enzymes created only by preexisting living cells, and the reactions required to assemble them into the molecules of biology will only go when mediated by other enzymes, assembled in the cell by precisely specified information in the genome.
    So, it comes down to this: Where did that information come from? The simplest known free living organism (although you may quibble about this, given that it’s a parasite) has a genome of 582,970 base pairs, or about one megabit (assuming two bits of information for each nucleotide, of which there are four possibilities). Now, if you go back to the universe of elementary particle Planck time chemical labs and work the numbers, you find that in the finite time our universe has existed, you could have produced about 500 bits of structured, functional information by random search. Yet here we have a minimal information string which is (if you understand combinatorics) so indescribably improbable to have originated by chance that adjectives fail.
    http://www.fourmilab.ch/docume.....k_726.html

    “Monkeys Typing Shakespeare” Simulation Illustrates Combinatorial Inflation Problem – October 2011
    Excerpt: In other words, Darwinian evolution isn’t going to be able to produce fundamentally new protein folds. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even be able to produce a single 9-character string of nucleotides in DNA, if that string would not be retained by selection until all 9 nucleotides were in place.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....51561.html

  5. 5
    ppolish says:

    The thing is, BA77, 42,162,500,000 billion billion years is an eyeblink instant compared to eternity. If monkeys can get a sentence in 42,162,500,000 billion billion years – they can get the whole text in eternity. Heck, they can do it complete infinitely times over in eternity.

    The problem with the eternal typing monkey argument is that there can never be eternally typing monkeys. It’s a silly argument imho. As silly as oops creating biology.

  6. 6
    ppolish says:

    Yes, an eternal creative force can create anything/everything. Be it the eternal creative force of typing monkeys, flying spaghetti monsters, or THE Creative Force of our Lord. I’m going with our Lord:) Alpha & Omega boom.

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