Tuesday, October 12


As part of the ongoing narrative of human ignorance of non-human sentience, we have some more episodes where "what separates us from the animals" turns out not to: Remember how we finally came to grips with the fact that we weren't the only animals who used, or made, tools? Now it turns out that some chimps have not just tools but entire tool kits: "Using infrared, motion-triggered video cameras, researchers have documented how chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo use a variety of tools to extract termites from their nests. The 'tool kits' are among the most complex ever observed in wild chimp populations." The caption on the page describes how "Using her foot to press a stick into the ground, much as a farmer would a shovel, an adult female chimpanzee makes a hole into an underground termite nest. She will then take another type of stick, carried in her mouth, and use it to fish for the insects."

Meanwhile, in the non-mammal world, it turns out that fish - contrary to conventional wisdom - "are fast learners, carry mental maps around in their heads - and can retain memories for months. Tests on fish in aquaria at Oxford University have shown that despite their tiny brains, they possess cognitive abilities outstripping those of some small mammals." Dr Culum Brown at the University of Edinburgh "found that Australian crimson spotted rainbowfish, which learnt to escape from a net in their tank, remembered how they did it 11 months later. This is equivalent to a human recalling a lesson learnt 40 years ago." (Both via Vegan Porn). Boy, what's next? Betty the Crow getting her own blog?

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