Chimps, Toolmaking, & Dumb Men Jokes?
Date: Wed, 26 Oct 94 18:10:38 PDT
Subject: Chimps, Toolmaking, & Dumb Men Jokes?
Forwarded-by: lanih@info.Berkeley.EDU (J. Lani Herrmann)
Forwarded-by: Cal Herrmann <arminius@nature.Berkeley.EDU>
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Herb Huston)
In article <email@example.com> is written:
>In article <1994Sep30.firstname.lastname@example.org>,
>Richard Jacoby <rick@TotSysSoft.com> wrote:
}I've read about this also. It was a macaque named Imo, and she started out
}washing sand off sweet patatoes. Next her playmate learned how to do this,
}then her mother. After that, many of her young peers learend how to do it.
}Within seven years, many of the mothers were washing, so most of the
}infants picked it up. After that virtually everyone did it.
Not quite everyone. See below.
}The same macaque figured out you can throw sandy wheat in the ocean, the
}wheat will float, the sand sink, then the wheat can be skimmed of the
Yes, Imo had discovered placer mining, the technique that's used in panning
for gold. She has been called the Archimedes of the Macaques.
}In both cases other females were the first to copy, then children of both
}sexes then adult males..
Actually the adult males never picked up either potato-washing or placer
mining. That's why some primatologists refer to senior faculty members who
can't quite pickup on word processing or posting to Usenet as "macaque
There's a highly readable account of Imo in Carl Sagan's and Ann Druyan's
_Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors_ with references to the technical
literature. Also, David Attenborough visits the monkeys of Koshima Island
in the penultimate episode of _Life on Earth_. Finally, about 2.5 years
ago I had the opportunity to converse with a Japanese primatologist; my
first question for him was whether the Koshima macaques were still washing
their sweet potatoes, and his reply was that they were.
© 1994 Peter Langston