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Wild Gorillas Impress With Their Tools 276

Posted by Zonk
from the nice-wrench dept.
fatgav writes "The BBC is running an article about wild gorillas being seen to use tools in the wild. It is especially significant as not only have Gorillas never been seen to use tools, but they have been using them in a way unlike other great apes. From the article: 'The most astonishing thing is that we have observed them using tools not for obtaining food, but for postural support.' The scientists are getting excited as it can help to explain questions as to how the most advanced great ape (us) came to evolve."
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Wild Gorillas Impress With Their Tools

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  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:31PM (#13691107)
    Are we any closer to explaining this:
    http://www.ntk.net/media/dancemonkeyboy.mpg [ntk.net].

    And yet they say "Intelligent Design" isn't a falsifiable theory...
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:34PM (#13691126) Journal

    Let's just hope they never evolve to the level where they take up arms and declare war against us. Our record in Gorilla warfare hasn't been so stellar.

    • Let's just hope they never evolve to the level where they take up arms and declare war against us.

      I think we're doing a fine job of fighting against ourselves. The chimps can just sit back and wait for us to kill each other and then they can rule the world. And we think we're smarter?
    • Nah, it's not a problem. They're not numerous enough to fight us, (but quite clearly this article doesn't tell the whole story [hyperborea.org]...we only really need to worry about evil gorilla despots rising up and enslaving human and gorilla kind.

      By the time the gorillas rise up to enslave humanity, we'll all have robot bodies, chainsaw hands, and the strength of five gorillas. What will really need to worry about is all the normal humans trying to kill off all the cyborgs.

      Stinkin' humans.
    • Our record in Gorilla warfare hasn't been so stellar.

      Just fight them in space... their record in stellar warfare makes them look like gorillas.

      • Our record in Gorilla warfare hasn't been so stellar.

        Just fight them in space... their record in stellar warfare makes them look like gorillas.


        I don't know... Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys [spacemonkeys.net] did fairly well in their battles against Nebula.
        • Only one of the Space Monkies was a gorilla, though, and he wasn't exactly the brightest one. I think we'd do fine against gorillas in space...As long as they didn't get help from schizophrenic oragutang technology. We'd have to bring in the Fox then.
  • by The Real Nem (793299) on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:35PM (#13691127) Homepage

    I thought Gorillas had relatively small "tools" compared to their human counterparts. Certainly nothing much to impress with.

  • Human tools are bigger than gorilla tools... I mean, that's what makes us "great" apes right? (That and out ability to make puns at the drop of a hat!)
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by bahwi (43111) <incomingNO@SPAMjosephguhlin.com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:38PM (#13691145) Homepage
    Such the wrong impression from that title. My mind is way too low right now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:39PM (#13691155)
    My teacher says it proves all answers are in the Bible and that science nowdays is work of the devil. If you believe in science you're a fool. I pray for your souls.
  • No big deal (Score:5, Funny)

    by darklordyoda (899383) on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:39PM (#13691157)
    Not a big deal, we already control the gorillas' habitats.

    Now when the dolphins grow opposable thumbs, then we're screwed.
  • Baboons (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HermanAB (661181) on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:42PM (#13691173)
    I have seen baboons open doors, open garbage cans, whack things with sticks, whack shellfish with rocks - and baboons are held to be less intelligent than other great apes.
    • Re:Baboons (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dave21212 (256924) <dav@spamcop.net> on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:57PM (#13691247) Homepage Journal

      Actually, some folks think baboons are more intelligent than gorillas... Steve Van Nattan is one. Here's a really odd little story... [blessedquietness.com]

      This will be a hard one to write. Baboons are naughty animals by human standards, and many a tourist has been shocked at the manners of these hairy beasts. I personally think the chimpanzee is highly over-rated as to intelligence. Liberal animal huggers most often give the chimp credit for being the smartest ape because he, like his alleged fool evolutionary heir, man, can smoke cigars and ride bicycles. A baboon would flunk if cigars are the deciding factor. Nevertheless, I vote for baboons in the intelligence ratings. I think you may agree after you read this story.
    • I have seen baboons open doors, open garbage cans, whack things with sticks, whack shellfish with rocks - and baboons are held to be less intelligent than other great apes.

      I think you've been hanging around Tony Shalhoub, Robin Williams, and James Gandolfini just a little too often....
    • Well, raccoons do this too, and guaranteed, they are less intelligent than apes.
      • A raccoon can probably gnaw his way through a door, but I doubt they will turn the knob and open it. It is kinda scary when the back door of the cottage suddenly opens and a 5 foot tall 300lb hairy black monster is looking you in the eye - though I guess it regularly happens in US cities too...
        • Raccoons are very smart and curious, and quickly get bored with tedious tasks. As far as gnawing, the don't really have they dentition for it -- they are omnivores.

          Raccoons are very good mechanically, so long as they can reach the thing and get their thumbed hands on it (note: raccoon thumbs are not opposable). They are expert openers when it comes to containers for food and garbage.

  • by Zakabog (603757) <johnNO@SPAMjmaug.com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:45PM (#13691189)
    See these WILD gorillas use their tools in ways never seen before! Order now and get "Gorillas Gone Wild: Spring Break Edition." A new tape sent every month, cancel any time!
  • by Dave21212 (256924) <dav@spamcop.net> on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:47PM (#13691198) Homepage Journal

    Wild Gorillas Impress With Their Tools... oh my, they do.

    (Seriously, this is from a real book [arizona.edu])
    Excerpt From "Gorillas among Us: A Primate Ethnographer's Book of Days [arizona.edu]"

    "They mated and were done in about two minutes. I guess he thought they were finished and went back to eating his celery. All of their matings before had been brief, usually only one or two copulations. But she turned around and stared at him again, just like before. He tried to turn away, but she stayed inches away from his face. They ended up mating thirty-three times that day. It was so funny, because he kept that celery in his hand the whole time and never got a chance to eat it. At the end of the day he came inside and passed out with that sorry wilted stalk still clenched in his fist."
  • Possibility (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xgamer04 (248962) <xgamer04@y a h o o.com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:49PM (#13691210)
    Maybe they saw humans (or some other 'higher' ape) using tools? I dunno, it's a possibility, right?
    • Re:Possibility (Score:2, Insightful)

      Isn't that similar to one Judeo-Christian interpretation of how humans began using tools, that we were taught by the "nephilim"?
    • Re:Possibility (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ieshan (409693)
      Probably ought to go back to Thorndike.

      In any display of anything classified as "animal intelligence", animal modeling is usually not the answer. There was once a widely believed anecdote from Romanes about a group of mice who, after watching humans load up boats filled with things and paddle across rivers, would do the same with small blocks of wood and tiny paddles. No, seriously. Ridiculous, right? Right.
      • Primates are a bit closer to us to start with, though...And we already know that many of them WILL emulate us (chimps do it all the time). Gorillas learning how to use tools from watching humans is much more believable than the mouse story.
  • So true... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Cerdic (904049)
    And they are such showoffs about it. I was invited over to the zoo last weekend by a gorilla. He was chugging the beers when he suddenly decided to take me to the tool shed to show me the new bandsaw he bought the day before.

    From t-squares to circular saws, that ape had it all. I'm envious :(
  • by ktakki (64573) on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:49PM (#13691213) Homepage Journal
    I predict that the comments to follow this story will consist of...

    • 54 comments about the double-entendre of the story's headline
    • 37 comments from people wondering where the gorillas got the credit card needed to order the Leatherman from thinkgeek.com
    • 15 "I, for one, welcome our tool-using gorilla overlords..."
    • 9 "In Soviet Uganda..."
    • 3 actually substantive comments about the use of tools among primates and other animals, such as chimps using sticks to probe anthills and termite mounds, seagulls dropping shellfish on beachside parking lots to break them open, dolphins using sea sponges to protect their snouts as they forage for food near stinging stonefish, and wood finches using twigs and cactus spines to pry insects out of tree trunks.


    k.
    • "54 comments about the double-entendre of the story's headline"

      55.

      Scientists are getting excited about the gorillas' impressive tools. Heh heh heh.

      And of course you forgot: 2 comments about how only old Korean gorillas use tools these days.
    • You forgot:
      • One metapost about the posts
      • One metapost about that post.
    • Dont forget one meta post, one meta-meta post, and a partridge in a pear tree.
    • Cluster! (Score:3, Funny)

      by hellfire (86129)
      You forgot the 1 comment wishing for a beowulf cluster of tool-using gorillas.
    • by John Hawks (624818)

      The interesting thing about gorillas is that they make tools quite readily in captivity, but hadn't yet been observed to use them in the wild. This would imply that their toolmaking facility was not actually a product of adaptation for toolmaking in their natural habitat.

      We could entertain a couple of hypotheses about this. Perhaps all apes share a common toolmaking ability shared from our common ancestors, which now is used in some lineages (humans, chimpanzees) but not extensively in others (gorillas).

    • You forgot the three debates about evolution that get spawned every time a story like this comes along, and the twenty Flying Spaghetti Monster posts from people who still think it's funny.
    • ...walking sticks are for old gorillas.
  • Ape Tales (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday September 30, 2005 @10:58PM (#13691253) Homepage Journal
    I can't find the article in Google now, but I remember about 5 years ago reading about ape tribes exhibiting "written language" behavior. As I recall, apes would set out from their tribe's collective sleeping place to find food in nearby forest. After they found some, they'd return, breaking twigs along their path. Other apes in their tribe could follow the "signs" back to the food later. But apes of other tribes couldn't recognize the signs. The apes apparently learned to interpret the signs in their own tribal language, but not others.

    Now they're seen using walking sticks. Perhaps we'll find that apes use the sticks in different styles, and that some styles are learned by watching other apes. What would we look for to discover that some of that learning is derived from the marks made by the sticks, rather than watching a stick-using ape "in person"? If we found those records, would we have discovered "ape fashion magazines"?
    • by sd_diamond (839492)

      Now they're seen using walking sticks. Perhaps we'll find that apes use the sticks in different styles, and that some styles are learned by watching other apes. What would we look for to discover that some of that learning is derived from the marks made by the sticks, rather than watching a stick-using ape "in person"? If we found those records, would we have discovered "ape fashion magazines"?

      "Oh... My... God. Did you even SEE that gnarly branch that Og was carrying around yesterday? And he calls that

  • Really now, slashdot. I'm ashamed. You call yourselves technophiles? My buddies and I were on 'the scene' of these new technologies 6,000 years ago! Honestly!
  • Next comes Planet of the Apes
  • by SenseOfHumor (903349) on Friday September 30, 2005 @11:16PM (#13691333)
    "We've been observing gorillas for 10 years here, and we have two cases of them using detached objects as tools,"...


    Where do I sign up for these jobs?
    • Where do I sign up for these jobs?

      Well, first you have to be a gorilla...
    • No kidding. 10 years of observation, and only 2 instances of tool use?

      Sorry, how is that even remotely groundbreaking or impressive? You could almost chalk thoes kinds of odds up to random chance.
      • Yeah ... I saw some of the footage of the "gorilla using a stick for depth measurement", it looked incredibly like "gorilla walking in water and happening to be holding a stick" to me. But I guess you have to be an expert ...?
      • No kidding. 10 years of observation, and only 2 instances of tool use?

        That's how clever they are. Every time a researcher comes near, they cover their campfires
          hide their bows and arrows and stop their discussions on the origins of life, the universe and everything.

        Now this one gorilla obviously let her guard down, and got caught with a walking stick. Word has been sent to Yeti assassins, but they arrived too late to intercept the footage.
  • This is news? (Score:2, Informative)

    by ObjetDart (700355)
    I thought it's been well known for years that gorillas use tools. You don't think they've typing all that spam by hand do you?
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday September 30, 2005 @11:20PM (#13691346)
    From the article: 'The most astonishing thing is that we have observed them using tools not for obtaining food, but for postural support.'

    Sure, because being simple souls, they get all of the flown-in pasta they can pray for. And of course, Postural Support is exactly the sort of thing that you'd expect from a Creator [venganza.org] that really understands what it's like to have only Noodly Appendages.
  • by PhatKat (78180) on Friday September 30, 2005 @11:30PM (#13691401) Homepage
    there is no most here. does anyone understand that? Evolution doesn't have a purpose, it just is. To say "we are the most advanced" is exactly the same as saying "in our opinion we are the most advanced" and since presumably no other animal can respond to us in our language, the ayes have it. It's still total hogwash though. to say "most advanced" can't be applied unless there are qualifiers. For instance "humans are the most advanced animals because we birth the heartiest young" or how about "humans are the most advanced because we have the most sophisticated perceptual awareness" or "humans are the most advanced because we are the most peaceful."
    • The difference here is that no other species has the concept of being advanced. Hell, they don't even have the concept of concept. So, in the terms of reasoning, yes, we are the "most advanced".
      • how do you know they don't? A professor for a class I just dropped said that one of the qualities that differentiates us from animals is that animals do not have imagination. Have you ever seen a dog run in it's sleep? You think that's involuntary? The dog is dreaming. Just because you can't observe something doesn't mean you can assume proof of it's absence.
        • You'll get the wrong answer if you ask the wrong question. The same thing happens when you derail the topic by mentioning something unrelated.

          So what if an animal has an imagination? That has little to do with an animals ability to consciously conceptualize, or to see new solutions to problems and then act on their vision. Blind mimicry or acting on instict are not signs of "advancement" in any sense of the word. They're direct contradictions.

          Also, dreaming (whether it's you or the dog) has nothing to do wi
    • What people don't understand is that evolution is about adaptation, no advancement. Humans are exactly as adapted to their environment as Gorillas are (well, at least until we started messing up the jungles, etc.)

      It's bad enough when you hear people say things like, "Chimps are way more evolved than Baboons", but folks love to think the we are evolving into some "higher" lifeform -- what this is no one knows.

      Worst example of this is the argument posed by southern evangelicals:

      If you believe in evolu

  • So, gorillas (and other primates) use tools. BFD. Elephants use tools. Spiders can make tools. Dolphins can be trained to use tools. Pretty much any animal with a limited set of natural tools suited to their environment can learn how to use tools.

    I'm not sure I see what the big deal is, as this doesn't "prove" anything.
  • Yeah, (Score:4, Funny)

    by jpellino (202698) on Friday September 30, 2005 @11:38PM (#13691425)
    Murdoc & Noodle do OK with their axes - dunno if you give Russel credit (are drumsticks tools?) but 2D's certainly learned to make the best with what he's lost...
  • by NitsujTPU (19263) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @12:28AM (#13691596)
    Wild Gorillas Impress With Their Tools

    The Internet is just full of sickos, isn't it.
  • Note that these findings are published in the freely available, creative commons licensed journal PLoS Biology:

    http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request= get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0030380 [plosjournals.org]

    Entire issues are offered as beautiful PDFs. From the PLoS site http://www.plosjournals.org/ [plosjournals.org]:

    PLoS publishes peer-reviewed, open-access scientific and medical journals that include original research as well as timely feature articles. All PLoS articles are immediately freely accessible online, dep

  • by Phase Shifter (70817) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @12:47AM (#13691682) Homepage
    You have to admit the gorilla using a stick to determine the depth of water was impressive. Plenty of animals use tools, but how many use tools to make measurements?
    • Allow me, as I don't have mod points and your post is already at +5 anyway (and yet still being buried amongst all the blabber of the sexually obsessed zero-brains around here), to hereby express a "+1 insightfull" in a different way.

      I read about this in my local newspaper last night, and was thinking exactly the same thing. And not only that: the measurement she was taking was "indirect" and also included a reference to her self (or for those who consider that one should not use that word in this context

  • by efuzzyone (919327) <efuzzyone.netscape@net> on Saturday October 01, 2005 @01:35AM (#13691839) Homepage
    I hope creationists read this and learn something from it, so that they stop confusing young minds.
  • Let's blow some Karma!

    To all the people who will be offended by the following, remember, if you read it and can understand it YOU ARE NOT A GORILLA and it doesn't apply to you. If you go and translate this into simplified sign language for Koko I am going to be somewhat upset at you and I really don't care what Koko thinks just as long as you are the one who pays for her bananas.

    Yipppppppeeee! Now we can grant Gorillas human rights because the only thing that seperates humans from pond scum is that we are
    • Let me guess. God created the animals to serve us, amuse us, and to feed us right?
      • No actually The Deep Ecology Gaia Earth Mother created us to serve, amuse and feed the AIDS, Ghonorrea, and Herpes viruses and to be plant food when we die.

        BTW, the above is not serious, it's just throwing your nonsensical argument back at you.

        BTW, I'm a strong atheist, I believe God, Gaia, Flying Spaghetti Monster, and all other logic defying supernatural beings are IMPOSSIBLE.
      • Oh yeah, one more thing. I think deep ecologists are essentially solopsitic in that they act like the whole world was created the day they were born and they somehow must drive their suv around to every corner of the globe to protect it when in reality the whole reason they can think about anything besides what they're going to eat next and where they're going to get fresh water and live beyond the age of 18 is because of thousands of years of people thinking that they were special and above the animals.
  • by gregux (600239) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @01:50AM (#13691884)
    The most astonishing thing is that we have observed them using tools not for obtaining food, but for postural support.
    Drive past any highway repair crew and there will be at least one guy leaning on a shovel.
  • of course (Score:4, Funny)

    by albeit unknown (136964) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @02:43AM (#13691988)
    They use chairs as a tool. An alpha male will throw a chair at a beta male leaving for another tribe.

  • the article doesn't talk about 'posturing' as in showing off,
    but about 'postural support' as in crutches.

    The world isn't ready yet for geek gorrillas.

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