Chimpanzee Intelligence

Chimpanzee Intelligence

Among animals, primates are on the top of the list when talking about intelligence. Scientists traditionally calculate the intelligence of a creature according to its brain size; As a rule, the bigger the brain, the more intelligent it is. While this methodology has been the standard for a long time, now is becoming challenged.

But, What is intelligence?

A very simple definition indicates that it is a capacity to overcome problems based on reasoning, understanding, foresight and learning.

The animal brain has several areas, millions of neurons and many connections between them. Highly social animals, such as dolphins, monkeys, and chimpanzees, have a higher cortex-brain ratio, than the animals that lack this behavior and have a low cortex-brain ratio. The cortex is the outer cerebral layer, fundamental in processes such as thought, language, and consciousness, which is the sign of a higher intelligence.

There are registered up to 39 learned behaviors including activities like breeding and tool use.

Chimpanzees are the object of continuous research, and even today scientists are interested in knowing how far their intelligence reaches. The information obtained has surprised scientists and people.

One of the key indicators of an animal’s intelligence is its ability to learn based on experience; this means that it changes its previous actions and then starts behaving differently as consequence of such experience. It is a typical behavior of people: if we go to a place where we had a bad experience, walking nearby will remember us the experience, and as a result, we will bypass that location to avoid problems. Sounds pretty logical, but not all animals do this.

These primates learn from their perception of the environment through their senses: sight, hearing, smell, and so on; Through observation, test and error trails and even through more than one experience. There are registered up to 39 learned behaviors including activities like breeding and tool use.

Chimpanzees have a relatively long evolutionary history, but it was about 4,300 years ago when they began to use tools to feeding or grooming, for example.

They use thin sticks or branches that they introduce into the termite nests, so the termites climb into it, and then they take out the stick and eat. The tools and ways in which they use them vary among populations and are learned from youth when observing adults, suggesting the existence of a rudimentary culture and the capacity for foresight and planning. Why this last affirmation? Well, they do not take any branch. It has to have the length and width suitable to fit inside the hole of the termite nest, and if there are leaves on the branch, they remove them so that it can easily enter.

Brain of the chimpanzee

The mirror test is a famous experiment that consists of placing the animals in front of, of course, a mirror. If they recognize their reflection, they are presumed to have some degree of self-awareness. Chimpanzees appear to have it, as they have successfully passed the test. In fact, much of what we know about them came from individuals in captivity, where they have proven capable of solving many problems, including some that are not precisely natural in their species.

Some have learned the sign language and can communicate with humans through the union of words or symbols.

Research such as the one made at Georgia State University, USA, have tested chimpanzees’ communication skills. In that study, the scientists taught two bonobos called Kanzi and Panbanisha to point out some objects by using the keyboard of a computer that had symbols of objects and concepts familiar to them with which they obtained food or started activities. Bonobos also learned the sounds of some words. Some have learned sign language and can communicate with humans through the union of words or symbols, although lacking grammar structure. For example, They would not express “I want to eat a banana,” but something like “banana eat.”

Many behaviors of chimpanzees were believed to be unique to humans, but science has shown that it is not. Perhaps in the future, they will continue to surprise us with their cognitive abilities.



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