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Orangutans Know How to Make and Use Basic Stone Tools

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Do Orangutans possess this human triat? the ability to create tools.



Dr. Alba Motes-Rodrigo from the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the University of Tübingen along with a team of researchers in Germany tested the stone tool-making ability in Orangutans. The researchers clear their assumption by investigating two orangutans at Kristiansand Zoo, Norway. The research was conducted by scientists from the University of Tübingen, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the University of Barcelona and the University of Oslo tested



A hammer is given to each orangutan, They were then provided with a blunt stone core and two baited boxes of puzzles. To open the boxes, the orangutans had to cut through a rope or a silicon skin



As the apes received their tools, both orangutans started hitting the hammer on the walls and floor of their cage. Initially, they didn’t strike the stone core directly. In another analysis, the orangutans are provided with a man-made sharp flint flake. One of the orangutans used the flake to cut the silicon skin, solving the puzzle. This experiment marked the first time where cutting behavior has been distinctly observed in untrained, unenculturated orangutans.




In a subsequent investigation, researchers study three female orangutans. They first demonstrated to the apes how to strike the core to create a flint at Twycross Zoo in the UK. After proper training, one female went on to use the hammer to hit the core.



The study is published in the journal PLoS ONE. Dr. Alba Motes-Rodrigo commented,

“Our observations suggest that two major prerequisites for the emergence of stone tool use — striking with stone hammers and recognizing sharp stones as cutting tools — may have existed in our last common ancestor with orangutans, 13 million years ago, our study is the first to report that untrained orangutans can spontaneously use sharp stones as cutting tools. We also found that they readily engage in lithic percussion and that this activity occasionally leads to the detachment of sharp stone pieces.”



This confirms that Orangutans have the sense to create stone tools. Orangutans may know about the sharp edges of the flints and how to strike with stone hammers since 13 million years ago. This hypothesis, however, needs extra pieces of evidence to confirm the findings.


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