Chimps like chips. They would be cooking if they could

Chimpanzees prefer their vegetables lightly roasted. Clever experiments reveal that if our closest living relatives could only control fire they would probably be cooking

As far as we can tell, chimps don’t cook. Yet a series of clever experiments show that Pan troglodytes have a taste for cooked food and the cognitive capabilities to cook. The implication is that the common ancestor of chimps and humans that lived around 2 million years ago was poised to cook. The lineage that led to humans figured out how to control fire. The chimp lineage did not.

The Guardian’s science correspondent Hannah Devlin has already written an excellent article about the research, but I thought I’d share with you some of the video clips that accompany the study, published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Chimps like chips

A chimp is allowed to lick two slices of sweet potato, one raw and one cooked, then given a choice. All 29 chimps in this experiment prefer their veg lightly roasted

Chimps like to cook.

A chimp is given the choice of eating food from one of two devices. The first, on the left, is a control device that does nothing to the food. The other device, the chimp has learned, transforms a raw slice into a cooked slice (via a magical sleight of hand by the experimenter). When chimps put food into one of the devices, they went for the cooker in 85% of trial

I ain’t no chump.

The researchers offer this chimp the option to cook a slice of potato or an inedible wood chip. The subject goes straight for the potato, clearly demonstrating an understanding that the cooking device needs raw food to generate cooked food. At the very end of the clip, the chimp flicks away the wood chip with disdain

There are several other videos here that help illustrate all the other experiments in the study.

Warneken, F. and Rosati, A.G. Cognitive capacities for cooking in chimpanzees. PRS DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0229 3 June 2015

Henry Nicholls

The GuardianTramp

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