The big story this week looks at two groups of monkeys in Southeast Asia, living on islands that are a mere six miles apart.
These long-tailed macaques have been studied by scientists in the way they use stone tools. They carefully select rocks to crack open the shells of various shellfish, so that they can eat the innards.
Strangely, one group would keep their tools for reuse, while the other on the neighbouring island would cast away their stones having used them just once.
These hammerstones used by the two groups were so distinct that scientists could tell which island’s macaques had used them, simply by looking at them.
Why is this important? Well, these behavioural differences are examples of culture, something that’s typically just a human trait. It implies that different groups of monkeys can develop their own traditions of behaviour in their own environments.
Researchers also believe this could be helpful for any scientists exploring how early humans used stone tools.
This PDF resource includes this article, as well as accompanying activity ideas:
Debate, if we could communicate with animals, whether we should? Or would that just lead to humans exploiting them even more?
Imagine you are a long-tailed macaque who has just discovered how to use stones to get seafood out of shells. Write an advertisement that you would use to persuade your fellow macaques to use stones too
Write a short funny sketch in the form of a playscript in which one macaque is trying to get his friend to use stones to crack open shells but the friend doesn’t like the idea of using this new ‘technology’
Research another example of animals learning a new behaviour, especially if it shows them adapting to the human world.