Sunday, August 21, 2011

Orangutan Cools Itself With A Towel

In the book I'm reading, The Tell-Tale Brain, Ramachandran talks about mirror neurons. These are parts of the brain that fire not only when we do something, like reaching for a peanut, but when we merely see someone else reach for a peanut. He says a lot about the benefit of mirror neurons and their importance in human evolution. One ... they allow us to imitate, or learn through imitation.

BL just sent this video since he knows my interest in apes. I was flabberghasted.

Which reminded me of this excerpt from Ramachandran's book:
"No ape can match our imitative talents. However, I will note as an interesting aside here, the ape that comes closest to us in this regard is not our closest cousin, the chimpanzee, but the orangutan. Orangutans can even unlock locks or use an oar to row, once they have seen someone else do it. They are also the most arboreal and prehensile of the great apes, so their brains may be jam-packed with mirror neurons for allowing their babies to watch mom in order to learn how to negotiate trees without the penalties of trial and error.

If by some miracle an isolated pocket of orangs in Borneo survives the environmental holocaust that Homo sapiens seems hell-bent on bringing about, these meek apes may well inherit the earth."
I bet this orangutan watched some human or other animal doing this and learned through imitation. By the way, Ramachandran says that our use of the word 'aping' "is ironic given that most apes are actually not very good at imitation."


Angela and Melinda said...

Wow, this is SOOOOO cool! Wringing out the towel, and swiping the countertop too! So, so neat. We just way overestimate how smarty-pants we are as humans, and we way underestimate how smarty-pants many other species are, and not just primates. But fascinating about the "mirror neurons."

Bix said...

The wringing! Did you see that? Soooo neat.