The Second Version

23/02/07

Those Little Bastards ARE Packing!

I mused a while ago that these may have been the last words of a tiger confronted by early humans armed with their crude lances.

Imagine my reaction when (via Protein Wisdom) I found out that chimpanzees have been observed while making wooden lances and using them for hunting. And here is the abstract of the actual paper on Current Biology, for those who prefer the hard science.

Of course the press report has to give a more colourful account of the events.
"It was really alarming how forceful it was," said lead researcher Jill D. Pruetz of Iowa State University, adding that it reminded her of the murderous shower scene in the Alfred Hitchcock movie "Psycho." "It was kind of scary."
I suppose that a field biologist would be accustomed to the brutality of the fight for survival, but that's just me. Anyway, out in the African wilderness I'd carry a 12ga. shotgun and plenty of ammo whenever I can, just in case. Besides lance-wielding chimps, there's plenty of other dangers over there.

The article also speculates that females are the main toolmakers because they are the most inventive and curious problem-solvers. I offer the alternate (or complementary) explanation that males do not need to make tools because they are bigger and stronger.

Now what has to be determined in with long-term observations is whether this knowledge will be transmitted to other members of the tribe, and maybe across tribes; and whether it will be improved with time.

Update 23:00: Funny, my blog received a visit with the URL of the WaPo article I linked above as referral, but I could find no link in the whole page, related content or comments. Only the "Who's blogging" section has a link to here, but from a different URL. Whatever, trafficum non olet.

Speaking of the comments thread on that article, don't read it if you want to avoid a massive RCOB moment. It took a total of say, 1 comment before the first stupid GW Bush joke, and it does not change tone in all the four pages. The idiocy emanating from that thread is so dense a meteo radar could barely cut through it; the moonbattery oozing from the comments is more viscous than the pitch at University of Queensland.

As an aside, the fact that - according to the researchers - female chimps are more likely to make and use weapons than males should put those spouting all that crap about masculine violence in a tight spot. Or so I hope.

Etichette: ,

2 Commenti:

  • It looks to me they are using them as tools more than as weapons. There's plenty of mammals that use objects as tools. Nutrias if I remember correctly, or some other amphibious mammal, use stones to break open shellfish.

    Wellington

    Di Anonymous Anonimo, Alle 23/2/07 15:10  

  • The novel part is that those chimps deliberately took a tree branch and shaped it into a sort of lance. This is a step further from simply grabbing something already available like a rock or stick. We'll see (maybe) where it leads.

    Di Blogger Fabio, Alle 23/2/07 16:18  

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