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Apes Can Plan Ahead

They may not use wall calenders, but apes too have their ways of planning ahead.

an ape looks away and scratches his chin as if he is concentrating

Photo: baboon (flickr)

You probably plan ahead for many things like events, your day tomorrow, and emergencies. Contrary to previous thought, it looks like humans aren't the only animals able to do this.

You probably plan ahead for many things like events, your day tomorrow, and emergencies.

Contrary to previous thought, it looks like humans aren’t the only animals able to do this. Bonobos, our closest great ape relative, and orangutans, our most distant great ape relative, also appear to be capable of planning ahead.

They have been shown to select an appropriate tool, and save it for later use. The animals were taught how to use a tool to retrieve grapes from a machine. Then they were allowed access to a variety of tools, but no access to the fruit machine. Next they were transferred into another room for anywhere from an hour to fourteen hours. When brought back into the room with the fruit machine and allowed access to it, if they brought the correct tool, they could retrieve some grapes. Both bonobos and orangutans were better at this than chance would predict.

What’s more, in this set of experiments, some animals were also successful in saving a tool for later retrieving a bottle of juice. The idea was that juice doesn’t satisfy hunger like actual fruit does, and so this test would help to ensure that the animals weren’t simply carrying around the right tool because they were hungry.

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