RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer, reports:

They don’t bring along an umbrella or sunglasses that might be needed later, but researchers say apes, like people, can plan ahead.

Both orangutans and bonobos were able to figure out which tool would work in an effort to retrieve grapes, and were able to remember to bring that tool along hours later, researchers report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

In a series of laboratory tests the apes were shown the tools and grapes, allowed to retrieve grapes, and then removed from the area where the treats were available.

They were allowed back from one to 14 hours later and most were able to bring along the correct tool to get the treats, report Nicholas J. Mulcahy and Josep Call of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

The researchers said the finding suggests that planning ahead arose at least 14 million years ago, when the last common ancestor of bonobos, orangutans and humans lived.

While the findings do not necessarily imply that the apes are able to anticipate a future state of mind, they are nonetheless groundbreaking, Thomas Suddendorf of the University of Queensland in Australia said in a commentary.

“By identifying what capacities our closest living relatives share with us, we can get a glimpse at our evolutionary past,” Suddendorf said.

In a separate paper in ScienceExpress, the electronic version of Science, researchers report that scrub jays look over their shoulders when hiding food for future use and, if they think another bird saw where they put it, will relocate their cache.

The report by Nicola S. Clayton and colleagues at the University of Cambridge in England noted that relocating food was common when a bird thought it had been observed by a more dominant bird, but not when a partner was present.

The findings indicate that the birds act to avoid the possibility that a non-partner will raid their stored food, and remember who was around when they hid it, the researchers say.


On the Net:

Science: http://www.sciencemag.org