Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Baby chimps are as bright as human infants

Chimpanzees have long been known for their ability to mimic humans. Now scientists have found that baby chimps’ mental development can even be more advanced than children of the same age.

At nine months, the animals are just as curious and capable of recognising carers and familiar objects as the average baby. When compared with infants kept in isolated conditions in orphanages, the animals are even more advanced.

The scientists who carried out the research believe their research also provides valuable evidence that chimpanzees, like humans, thrive on social interaction. The more intimate their contact with their carers, the faster their brains develop.

Chimpanzees share about 96% of their DNA with humans. An adult chimp’s level of intelligence has been likened to that of a three-year-old child.

The new research shows that in their early lives, they develop along similar lines to people before humans race ahead.

“Nursery-reared chimpanzees . . . exhibited distress (screaming and crying) in those episodes when they were separated from their favourite caregiver and . . . [touched their toys] when their favourite caregiver was present,” says the study by scientists at Portsmouth University and Leiden University, Holland.

Full story here.

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