Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Hard proof that gorillas use tools, all by themselves!

` Just goin' through my e-mail today finally. Ah! News from Nature.com! I consider this to be exciting!
` Lookit!

Gorillas have been spotted using tools in the wild for the first time, after decades of observation.

` Hoorayyy!

Unlike chimpanzees, which use a range of tricks to get food, gorillas rely more on size and strength: they shell nuts with their teeth, or smash open termite mounds with their fists.

But not needing tools to get food does not mean that gorillas aren't smart enough to use them. Captive western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) are known to use tools in captivity, for example. And mountain gorillas (G. beringei) use a variety of different techniques which, although not involving tools, are clever ways of stripping leaves from hard-to-reach plants.

` This is where Thomas Breuer comes in, after trekking into the Congolese jungle:

From their vantage point in a clearing at Mbeli Bai in the northern Republic of Congo, Breuer and his colleagues spotted a female gorilla, called Leah, studying a pond before venturing a few steps into it. She then turned back and grabbed a handy metre-long branch from the bank, which she proceeded to use as a 'walking stick', repeatedly prodding the pond's bottom with it. After apparently assessing the depth of the pond with each prod, she eventually moved almost 10 metres from the shore.

"It was clear to us that she was testing the depth of the water," says Breuer. "The way she did it was incredible because it was so similar to the way that we humans solve the problem of deep water." And deep water probably is a danger to gorillas, Breuer adds. "I've never seen a gorilla swim; I would assume that they can't," he says.

The researchers saw another female, Efi, using the trunk of a dead shrub as a bridge to cross swampy ground. Efi ripped the 1.3-metre-long, 5-centimetre-wide section from the ground and leant on it like a crutch while she trawled the marshy ground for food. Then she laid it down like a plank and strode over it.

` Also, I have seen a video of another female gorilla pulling up a large log in order to climb on it in order to reach some particularly tasty bark her troop was eating. (Yes, tree bark!) I wonder if that counts as tool use?

"This is remarkable," comments Andrew Whiten, who studies animal tool use at the University of St Andrews, UK. "Most scientists had given up on seeing it. Gorillas had almost been written off as tool users in the wild."

` And now they're not! Yay! Aren't they special?

` In other news, I've always thought this was amusing, even though I've gotten variations of it so many times...

` Can you read this?

Olny srmat poelpe can.

I Cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The
phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy,
it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it
wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter
by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot
slpeling was ipmorantt!

If you can raed tihs psas it on !!

` Hee. Of course, that may be true in this particular instance, but I'm pretty sure that this does not always apply: There is an order to this madness, after all.

` Well, onward with e-mail looking-at!


Galtron said...

Grollias srue are sarmt! Look at Kkoo!

No, tihs is not enlitery wonkirg, I see waht you maen!

Aaron said...

Taht was ralely naet. I raed tgruohh the wolhe tihng and was olny sppoetd a cpoule tmeis.

S E E Quine said...

` Gald you lkie!