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Orangutan Curiosity

November 22, 2017

Orangutans living in captivity are much more curious than their wild counterparts.


Bradley Buhro National Zoo

An orangutan contemplates a ball at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. (Bradley Buhro/CC-BY-2.0, via flickr)


Ape curiosity. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Wild orangutans tend to be incurious loners, shying away from anything unfamiliar and potentially harmful. But orangutans living in captivity love exploring new things in their sheltered environment. Now, a study in the journal Animal Behaviour suggests that being around humans and other orangutans not only elicits strong curiosity, but makes the apes better problems solvers. University of Zurich Evolutionary anthropologist Carel van Schaik explains.

CAREL van SCHAIK (University of Zurich):

Those guys are actually going to have an advantage, the ones that are curious. Curious individuals are more likely to hit on solutions…


…which leads to more innovation and, therefore, survival. van Schaik’s team argues that a burst of curiosity in our own increasingly social ancestors may have driven us to explore novel habitats and to develop tools and agriculture. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

Laura Damerius led the research.