Chimpanzees fancy their sweet sweet potatoes cooked according to a Harvard study that sheds light on the cognitive abilities of the primates.
The study, conducted by Felix Warneken and Alexandra Rosati from Harvard University was carried out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
29 chimpanzees were included in a string of nine experiments that targeted cognition and an answer to the a much debated question in the anthropological community.
Was the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees equipped for cooking? How did it master fire in order to thermally prepare its food?
In relation to these questions, the cue of experiments provided unabated evidence that the common lineage of chimpanzees and humans owned the same cognitive toolkit in relation to cooking.
At the sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the chimpanzees are usually fed with raw food, among which raw sweet potato chips. The first series of experiments of the nine revolved around these yummy nourishment for the primates.
Initially, the researchers offered the chimpanzees to choose if they received a one slice portion of their favourite treat instantly or a three slice portion of sweet potatoes if they waited for one minute.
The results were fantastic. The chimps were prone to eating the one slice portion instantly rather than waiting for the larger portion to come at a later stage. At this point, the sweet potato chips were still raw.
A second part of the experiments saw the mixing of the portions with cooked and uncooked sweet potato chips. It turned out the behavior of the chimpanzees had changed. If the three-slice portion was also cooked, then they would ignore the raw one chip, postpone instant gratification and wait for the cooked sweet potatoes.
This established a clear preference for cooked nourishment. A third part of the experiments looked at how chimps would go about actual cooking provided they had the tools. So a rather rudimentary system was set in place.
If a raw sweet potato chip was placed in the heated cooking device, a cooked one would result. It didn’t take look for the individual chimpanzees to realize the functioning of the system and learn they would be rewarded with a treat far more to their liking.
So they gathered their supplies of raw chips to cook it later points in time, refusing to indulge in raw food again. It was interesting that a fourth part of the experiments provided them with more food options, as well as inedible object.
When faced with the variety they correctly identified the edible nourishing elements and placed them in the cookers as well. Wood chips that were placed there as tests were utterly ignored.
Therefore, the Harvard duo noted, chimpanzees were a constant string of surprised. They prefer their food cooked, they have the ability to wait until this happens and they can easily go about it.
Why don’t they apply these abilities in the wild then? To some extent, they do. Chimpanzees in the wild were observed keeping a keen eye on bush fires only to later extract and indulge in the roasted seeds or nuts to be found in the remains.
However, they do not posses the ability to control fire by themselves. Do they own the cognitive toolkit needed to master cooking? It seems they do according to this research.
The results of the study are thoroughly detailed in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy B.
Image Source: mix96buffalo.com
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