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What these chimpanzees are doing has researchers wondering what’s next

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Images courtesy of Edwin van Leeuwen via The Dodo

Just in time for the release of Dawn of the Planet of Apes, a publication says that oddly enough, chimpanzees have the ability to imitate the human ability to exhibit spontaneous and arbitrary behavior.

Researchers have already shown that chimpanzees understand how to make tools and groom and fend for themselves. They show the capacity for learned behaviors that contribute to their survival.

Now something that scientists describe as a trend has taken over a community of chimpanzees, and it has researchers talking.

These chimpanzees have taken on the seemingly whimsical practice of “selecting a stiff, straw-like blade of grass, inserting the grass into one of their own ears, adjusting the position, and then leaving it in their ear during subsequent activities.”

Images courtesy of Edwin van Leeuwen via The Dodo

Images courtesy of Edwin van Leeuwen via The Dodo

The journal Animal Cognition considers it to be ear accouterments, in line with a fashion trend.

They observed, over the course of a year, eight out of 12 group members exhibiting the peculiar behavior. The quirk first began with the chimp Julie, according to reports.  

“Our observation is quite unique in the sense that nothing seems to be communicated by it,” study author Edwin van Leeuwen, a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute in The Netherlands told the website The Dodo. 

“Any kind of subculture fad in human culture, I’d say, could be the parallel to this grass-in-ear behavior,” van Leeuwen said to The Dodo. “Perhaps wearing earrings or certain kinds of hats.”

Read more on The Dodo. 



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