Study finds chimpanzees more likely to share tools when task is complex

WASHINGTON (Xinhua): Chimpanzees that use a multi-step process and complex tools to gather termites are more likely to share tools with novices, according to a study published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study helps illuminate chimpanzees’ capacity for prosocial -- or helping -- behavior, a quality that has been recognized for its potential role in the evolution of human cultural abilities.

Researchers in the United States examined the transfer of tools between chimpanzees during termite gathering, and compared the population in the Goualougo Triangle, Republic of Congo, with the population in Gombe, Tanzania.

Chimpanzees in both locations use fishing-probe style tools to harvest termites, but Goualougo chimpanzees use multiple, different types of tools sequentially. They also make tools from specific plant species and customize fishing probes to improve their efficiency. At Goualougo, however, where the fishing tasks were more complex, the rate of tool transfer was three times higher than at Gombe, and Goualougo mothers were more likely to transfer a tool in response to a request.

Also, ape mothers at Goualougo most often responded to tool requests by actively giving a tool to offspring, which were never observed at Gombe, where mothers most often responded by refusing to transfer tools.

“An increased role for this type of social learning may thus be an important component of the transmission of complex tool traditions over generations,” said CricketteSanz, associate professor of biological anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Understanding how chimpanzee tool traditions are passed on over generations can provide insights into the evolutionary origins of complex cultural abilities in humans, according to the study.

‘Merry Christmas’ bank robber gifts money

LONDON (GN): A white-bearded man robbed a bank two days before Christmas then threw the money in the air and enthusiastically wished passers-by a merry Christmas, witnesses have said.

Police said “an older white male” robbed the Academy Bank in Colorado Springs on Monday lunchtime.

“He robbed the bank, came out, threw the money all over the place,” witness Dion Pascale told Colorado’s 11 News.

“He started throwing money out of the bag and then said, ‘Merry Christmas!’” Witnesses said the hirsute suspect then wandered over to a nearby Starbucks coffee shop, sat down in front of it, and waited to be arrested. In a particularly festive gesture, the passers-by are reported to have scooped up all the money from the street and taken it back inside the bank. Colorado Springs police named the suspect as David Wayne Oliver, 65. He is not believed to have had any little helpers.