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Even Chimps Have Their Einsteins

by Kathy Jones on August 30, 2012 at 9:41 PM
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 Even Chimps Have Their Einsteins

Geniuses are not limited just to humans after a new study testing intelligence among chimps found that some were smarter than others.

One chimp in particular, an adult female in her 20's named Natasha, who scored far better than other chimps was classified as being "exceptional."

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The findings, published in the latest Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggest that geniuses exist among non-humans, Discovery News reported.

Instead, a perfect storm of abilities seems to come together to create the Einsteins of the animal kingdom. Natasha's keepers at the Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda knew she was special even before the latest study.
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"The caretakers named Natasha as the smartest chimpanzee, precisely the same chimpanzee that our tests had revealed to be exceptional," wrote study authors Esther Herrmann and Josep Call of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Natasha has made headlines over the months for her attention-grabbing antics. For example, she repeatedly escaped her former enclosure, surrounded by an electric fence. She did this by tossing branches at the fence until she didn't see a spark, letting her know that the power was off.

She also learned how to tease humans, beckoning them to throw food her way, only to spray the unsuspecting person with water.

Herrmann and Call decided to study this chimp, along with numerous others, to see if there really are chimp prodigies among non-human great apes. To do this, the researchers created a multi-part mental challenge consisting of eight tasks.

For the first task, the chimps had to find hidden find, testing their spatial knowledge. For the second, the chimps wielded a tool-avoiding a trap-to again obtain a food reward. The remaining tasks demonstrated understanding of things like colour, size and shape.

"We identified some individuals who consistently scored well across (the) multiple tasks," wrote the authors, who again made note of Natasha, who aced nearly every task.

The researchers could not identify "a general intelligence factor." They instead indicate that ape intelligence might be a bundling of skills related to learning, tool usage, understanding of quantities, and an ability to reach conclusions based on evidence and reasoning.

For other animals, Herrmann and Call mention the dogs Rico and Chaser, who knew the meaning of hundreds of words.

Source: ANI
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