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Stone-Throwing Chimp Back In the News With Better Plan 235

sciencehabit writes "Three years ago, a stone-throwing chimpanzee named Santino jolted the research community by providing some of the strongest evidence yet that non-humans could plan ahead. Santino, a resident of the Furuvik Zoo in Gävle, Sweden, calmly gathered stones in the mornings and put them into neat piles, apparently saving them to hurl at visitors when the zoo opened as part of angry and aggressive 'dominance displays.' But some researchers were skeptical that Santino really was planning for a future emotional outburst. Now Santino is back in the scientific literature, the subject of new claims that he has begun to conceal the stones so he can get a closer aim at his targets—further evidence that he is thinking ahead like humans do."
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Stone-Throwing Chimp Back In the News With Better Plan

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  • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:20AM (#39954753)
    And yet we still keep him, and his relatives, in a cage.
  • They must have a clinical definition of "planning" that is more precise than we normally think of animals. Cuz I can tell you that my dog used to plan ahead. He was devious! Maybe this has to do with the time scale - she would usually make 5 minute plans, rather than 2 hours or whatever the monkey's time scale is.
    • My dog is the type of moron who will walk into walls because he's distracted, but he's executed surprisingly complex plots when it comes to stealing rawhide from the other dog. He even has a Plan B called "whine until Daddy gets annoyed and fills the Kong with cheese whiz which is even better!"

    • *snip* Maybe this has to do with the time scale - she would usually make 5 minute plans, rather than 2 hours or whatever the monkey's time scale is.

      I don't wish to sound petty, but chimpanzees are apes. I'm sure you know that but if a monkey was seen planning like this then it would be much bigger news. As you say, it's probably a question of timescales; our dog may have been bright but I can't recall her ever planning like this unless you count burying things in the garden.

    • by jbengt ( 874751 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @02:44PM (#39957897)

      Dogs always know what time it is. If they could speak they would tell you: "It's now" - that is, they can't really plan ahead. They can plan for the moment, within the limits of their working (short -term) memory. And they can internalize lessons from long-term experience and modify their behavior, such as not stealing food off the table after getting punished several times for it. But they have no capacity to reason about what might happen in the more-than-immediate future and decide what to do based on that. For example, the dog that won't steal food in front of you, may very well steal it when you are out of sight, never realizing that you will know what took place and get mad at it, but acting very guilty when you return to the room because it will only then realize it is in trouble.

      Elephants, on the other hand, based on my own anecdotal "evidence", anyway, appear to be able to plan ahead as well as the chimp in TFA. When I was involved in the gutting and remaking of the building housing elephants, giraffes, etc. at our local zoo, the architect pointed out to me the brown spots on the wall behind the visitor's gallery. It turns out that the poor, bored animal was throwing its' dung at the visitors. The interesting part, though, was that when the zookeepers realized this, and cleaned up the poop before the visitors arrived, the elephant started planning ahead and hiding their excrement on top of the barrier poles so it would be available to throw at the gawkers (the poles were more than 8 feet high and large enough to conceal the dung from the zookeepers). This apparently amused the elephant, as it was done to the squealing delight of all the visiting schoolchildren - those that weren't hit by the shit, anyway.

  • by Brainman Khan ( 1330847 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:24AM (#39954789)
    Don't Squirrels store nuts??
    • The difference being a survival instinct vs. plans for an emotional outburst.

    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      I think that's more of a burying instinct; they don't actually remember where they bury them, but if there are enough buried all around they have a decent chance of finding one when the start looking.

    • I think the difference here is that squirrels do it on an instinctive level... and the vast majority of the nuts they store never get used and the few that are usually get re-discovered by accident. Squirrels don't show any evidence of storing nuts because they know it will be cold... just that's what instinct drives them to do. I'd bet that if you took a squirrel at birth and kept it somewhere that's always a stable, warm temperature then it would still store nuts even though it had no idea why it was doin

    • by BriggsBU ( 1138021 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:43AM (#39955129)
      Instinctual behaviors are not considered planned behaviors. This is a unique display from the chimp in question that other chimps don't do, so it is not instinctual. Previous questions were if it was perhaps a learned behavior or that the initial gathering and stockpiling was unrelated to the use of the rocks to throw at zoo visitors. The fact that he seems to have recognized that he has a better chance of successfully attacking the visitors by portraying peaceful action and concealing his weapons gives much more evidence that this chimp is capable of advanced thought and planning.
  • learning to lie (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:25AM (#39954809) Homepage

    He isn't just planning ahead, and then coming up with a new plan. He's being deceptive.

    • And what surer sign of intelligence do we have?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:30AM (#39954917)

        He isn't just planning ahead, and then coming up with a new plan. He's being deceptive.

        And what surer sign of intelligence do we have?

        Having the qualities necessary to be an attorney, politician, or investment banker does not constitute intelligence.

        • by BobNET ( 119675 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @01:42PM (#39957085)

          Your honor, I'm a chimpanzee. Your scientists saw me stacking stones and then hiding them and so they sent me to law school. Your world frightens and confuses me! When someone sends me a text message on my iPhone I wonder, "are there tiny people inside typing it?" I don't know. But I do know this: when someone like my client slips and falls on the sidewalk in front of a public library, he is entitled to two million dollars in compensatory damages and two million in punitive damages. Thank you.

      • by Splab ( 574204 )

        Comparing to some of the baggers at the local supermarket, I'd question the intelligence classification of humans (not all baggers are morons).

      • If he reports a fault in the AE35 unit, don't go out to fix it.

    • So what? Any animal that plays dead is being deceptive. Any that uses camouflage or mimicry is being deceptive. Cats use deception to fool their prey into believing they aren't paying attention. Deception isn't in short supply in the animal kingdom.

      • There's a difference between instinct and learning.

        • My cat responds with an innocent expression if I ask if it ate the salmon I was preparing. My kitten looks proud stating "Yes I eated it, it was delicious, got some more". Same as kids, kids don't know how to lie when they are young. Then they learn it badly (lying when the evidence is right there) and then they learn deception.

          A lot of this research is problematic. A fish eagle is known to be able to do all it needs to do in a day in few minutes, it is such an effective hunter. So... is it a dumb or smart

      • There is a difference between deception at a species level (e.g. mimicry, stalking behavior), and the deception at an individual level that is going on here.

    • No, not deceptive.
      He's just showing off his knowledge and understanding of our human religious scriptures, as well as showing that he himself is without sin.

      Sheesh. You psychologist-type people will just read ANYthing into some situations. ;-)

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      So when does he start at Yahoo?

  • Yay for science! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by T.E.D. ( 34228 )
    How wonderful that our imprisonment of these creatures is causing them mental and emotional problems resulting in behavior that is so useful for scientific study!
    • Re:Yay for science! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Xiaran ( 836924 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:39AM (#39955075)
      Do be fair chimps are kinds of assholes in the wild. When they come across a groups of chimps smaller than them they slaughter them... if the same size or greater they put on dominance displays and they leave.
      • When they come across a groups of chimps smaller than them they slaughter them

        I saw that one time on some special. There was a small group of chimps, 4 I think, who climbed up trees and surrounded a monkey. The monkey kept jumping from tree limb to tree limb trying to escape but in the end, the chimps caught him. The next thing they did was beat the bugger against the tree until it was dead and then ate him.

        So, we have planning (I want to eat that monkey), group coordination (you go there, I'll
        • How is that all that different than a pack of wolves finding, stalking and killing prey?

          I agree that Apes are intelligent, more so than canines, but this is a poor example.

      • Slaughter and EAT them. Chimps are cannibals if the opportunity presents itself. They are also known to have troop members that can only be described as very malicious to the point that human observers report them as being evil. Google "Frodo the Chimpanzee".

      • After reading the despicable evils and atrocities that primates, especially Chimpanzees, are capable of in this book by Carl Sagan and his wife: []

        I am convinced that evil is a trait we share with all primates, and that it somehow evolved at the primate level, and is not unique to humans. And it's just not chimps: gorillas and baboons as well.

        I am getting sick just recalling some of the stuff in that book.

  • Meh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mingot ( 665080 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:30AM (#39954909)

    I would go and see this chimp if they would let me throw the stones back at him. Hell, I'd even pay good money.

  • Santino, a resident of the Furuvik Zoo in Gävle, Sweden, calmly gathered stones in the mornings and put them into neat piles, apparently saving them to hurl at visitors when the zoo opened as part of angry and aggressive 'dominance displays.'

    As a stone-thrower, he's already advanced further politically than we have, seeing as how we are still at the poo-throwing dominance display stage.

  • Me too. (Score:5, Funny)

    by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:33AM (#39954965) Homepage

    I tried this at work but the custodial staff kept finding my little piles of rocks and removing them from my office. Sometimes it doesn't pay to plan ahead.

  • by dominious ( 1077089 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:34AM (#39954981)
    Next they will tell us about chimps that have writing skills, and about smoke-grenade throwing chimps with devious plan to kill all humans...
  • by S3D ( 745318 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:36AM (#39955021)
    Santino was castrated []. Seems zookeepers decided his planning ability was too advanced for their liking. Thing to remember for one intending to show advanced planning ability to more technologically advanced species.
  • "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes, except stone-throwing chimps, that will be for 30."

  • No, Santino aka Sonny [] was the hot headed one as evinced by his death at the tollbooth. This ape, his methodical planning sounds much more like a Michael [] to me. I suspect the research community was tipped off by an ape named Fredo, the stupid git.

  • No kidding Sherlock (Score:4, Interesting)

    by judoguy ( 534886 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:57AM (#39955363) Homepage
    Man, I coulda told you this 45 years ago.

    My family was driving through Florida in the 60s and we stopped at some wretched “jungle zoo” by the side of the road. I ran ahead of the rest looking at the really sad caged animals and saw the chimp cage. It had ragged poly sheets hanging in front with big holes and tears in them with a chimp sitting quietly. As soon as I got close enough, the chimp sprayed me with a most foul mouthful of something bad and jumped down to a bucketful of nasty and sucked up another huge mouthful.

    I wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree but even I knew to run like hell. This happened in full view of my family who promptly collapsed in hysterical laughter. The chimp knew exactly what it was doing and planned accordingly.

  • So this is what happens when stone-throwing chimps are kept away from /b/ !

  • Next thing you know, he'll be swinging bones at visitors,,,

  • So we have a chimp that is showing remarkable signs of intelligence, and the best activity we can come up with for him is to stick in him a cage and let the tourists ogle him?

    It's cute how we like to pretend we're "advanced".

  • One of the issues I see in this whole debate is the bias, intentional or unintentional, of the observer. It seems that some observers have the idea that apes have the ability to plan ahead. It is quite possible that observations are being interpreted to fit the hypothesis when there may be other explanations. It could just be an extension of learning hunting skills. Would a large cat that conceals himself near a game trail be considered to be planning ahead like a human? All hunters do similar things but ar

  • by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <.moc.edargorter- ... . .xetroCxetroV.> on Thursday May 10, 2012 @01:49PM (#39957155)

    I live with two pit-bull terriers (both rescued strays), and unfortunately I must keep them in separate rooms because of a traumatic event where during play the one's jaw got caught under the other's collar -- They remember this episode, but confuse it with each hurting the other; Ever since they fight if left together unsupervised for a length of time.

    The one dog, TC (named after the street T.C. Jester where she was found), likes being in the larger part of the house, and would rather not be in the den. So, when I say that "It's time to switch the dogs", and try to put her in the Den, she runs to the back door instead, as if she needs to relieve herself. She knows that the dog in the house usually ends up in the den when the outside dog is let back inside -- to keep them separated.

    If while coming back inside she realises that I'll be putting the other dog outside -- making her more likely to be the dog in the den, then she's resistant to coming back inside... She not only thinks ahead, she's worked out several plans to achieve her goal. If TC knows its her turn to have run of the house, then none of this is an issue, she goes in and out without a care, knowing that it's the other dog that'll be relegated to the den -- Even if she sees the other dog going out when she comes in, she's not reluctant to come inside because she's not planning on being put in the den.

    Furthermore, I'm beginning to run out of ways to say "Walk" and "Car" -- The dogs love riding in the car, and have learned that "C.A.R." means car, "Truck" and "T.R.U.C.K" is also out, can't say or spell "go" without them getting excited to leave -- Currently I've taken to saying, "Vamonos en el Auto" which is me butchering Spanish (never formally studied it, but I've run out of French and English words), because they've also learned "coche"; However, TC has started to pick up on this too -- You can see her perk up and look between the parties as if she's sussing out whether or not we'll soon be leaving. Names of vacation places, such as "Kerville" must be avoided at all cost -- I sometimes attend the Kerville Folk Festival for a week or so and have the neighbour care for one dog at the house while the other is in a kennel (to ensure separation), TC gets distressed when Kerville is mentioned -- She picks it up even in the middle of rapid speech with other parties. TC normally loves to get the leash so we can go for a walk, but Mention Kerville at all and she runs away from the leash for several days. She's planning not to be the dog in the kennel.

    Humans are so damn chauvinistic. There's no such thing as "sentience" -- That's some made up Bullshit right there. There is only varying degrees of awareness and intellect depending on the complexity of the neural network. Bigger network? Smarter. That's all there is to it.

    When (not if) machine learning neural networks surpass the complexity of the human mind by leaps and bounds: I sure hope they're understanding enough of our primitive nature, and don't treat us lesser minded humans as we treat the apes and other creatures with proportionally less neurons. Note that I didn't say I own the dogs...

    • It is possible to teach the dogs not to fight rather than relegating them to eternal separation. You should look into it, if you care about them you spend the time and money it takes to teach them to not be afraid of each other.

      My lab was attacked, for as best I can guess not being submissive enough to another dog, and has been suspicious of other dogs to the point of growling and getting ready to fight when they are around. I don't tolerate that behavior and I get very loud and simulate major angry when sh

  • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @03:31PM (#39958415)

    Sometimes I wonder why it takes researchers so long to discover attributes in animals that any pet owner has observed countless times.

    Here's one incident that comes to mind:
    A couple of years ago my father picked up my cat, as he's done many a time. But this time he took him over to another cat who, for whatever reason, he hated with passion. He patiently let my father hold him and return him to the other room. The instant my father released him the cat turned and bit him with all his strength.

    Instead of freaking out while in a compromised position he patiently waited to exact his revenge when he was reasonably safe. That sounds fairly good control of emotion and planning to me. It's not collecting rocks, but I think it's compelling nonetheless.

    How about pets training owners into performing desired actions?

  • That could be some very interesting data. Hail Caesar!

  • by ukemike ( 956477 ) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @03:47PM (#39958597) Homepage
    I misunderstood the summary title, "Stone-Throwing Chimp Back In the News With Better Plan." I expected the article to be about congressional republicans.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham