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Ape Planning

June 20, 2006

You’d pack very differently for a trip to the beach and a trip to the mountains. It turns out that chimps and orangutans have a similar kind of foresight.


Primate planning. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you have trouble planning ahead, we have bad news for you: Even apes can do it. That’s according Josep Call and Nicholas Mulcahy of the Max Plack Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. They found that chimps and orangutans can choose the right tool for a specific task, carry it off with them, and return to use it up to fourteen hours later. Call says this kind of foresig t was previously thought to be unique to humans.

JOSEP CALL (Max Plack Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany):
Of course this is not showing the same depth and the same sophistication about thinking about the future, but at least shows that some ability to plan for the future is already present in the apes.

… which may have set the stage for planning-dependent human endeavors, like farming, education, and science. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.