JUL 27, 2020 4:28 PM PDT

Bigger Brains Linked to More Manual Dexterity in Apes

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Although people are very skilled at using their hands, they take a long time to master how to use them. Meanwhile, for many apes, the process of mastery happens much faster- by the time humans have mastered their manual skills, many apes are already giving birth. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich have found out why. 

For more than seven years, Sandra Heldstab, an evolutionary biologist, and her colleagues observed 36 different primate species. Overall, they studied 128 young primates in 13 zoos across Europe from birth until they reached full adult manual dexterity. 

In particular, they found that all species tend to learn their respective manual skills in the same order. This, they said, highlights that the neural development of primates follows a very rigid pattern. 

They also found that large-brained species like macaques, gorillas, and chimpanzees can solve more complex tasks with their hands than their smaller-brained cousins such as lemurs and marmosets. From this, they deduced that manual dexterity is likely a natural byproduct of having a larger brain. 

More complex manual abilities, however, take a longer time to master. The researchers say this is because the range of these skills is more complex, and that more advanced skills are only encountered later on in life. They added that this might happen as human brains tend to be less developed at birth than those of apes with comparably smaller brains like lemurs and callitrichids. 

 “Our study shows once again that in the course of evolution, only mammals that live a long time and have enough time to learn were able to develop a large brain and complex fine motor skills including the ability to use tools. This makes it clear why so few species could follow our path and why humans could become the most technologically accomplished organism on this planet,” says Sandra Heldstab.



Sources: Neuroscience News, Science Advances

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
OCT 22, 2020
Immunology
Migraines: Dark Times and (Pharmaceutical) Rays of Hope
OCT 22, 2020
Migraines: Dark Times and (Pharmaceutical) Rays of Hope
Despite being commonly used interchangeably, headaches and migraines are worlds apart. Migraines are by far much more pr ...
OCT 21, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Experimental Vaccine Shows Promise in Halting Alzheimer's
OCT 21, 2020
Experimental Vaccine Shows Promise in Halting Alzheimer's
In a preclinical study, researchers from the Univerity of South Florida have found that a vaccine that targets neurotoxi ...
DEC 03, 2020
Neuroscience
Scientists Invent Noninvasive Microscope to Observe Neurons
DEC 03, 2020
Scientists Invent Noninvasive Microscope to Observe Neurons
To obtain high-resolution images of the brain, researchers usually need to reduce the thickness of the skull or cut into ...
DEC 10, 2020
Immunology
Drug Turns Back the Clock in Aged Brains
DEC 10, 2020
Drug Turns Back the Clock in Aged Brains
When faced with stressful stimuli — anything from oxygen or nutrient deprivation to viral infections — cells ...
DEC 30, 2020
Neuroscience
Brain Imaging Predicts Risk of PTSD
DEC 30, 2020
Brain Imaging Predicts Risk of PTSD
Until now, why posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops in some and not others following a physical and/ or psychol ...
JAN 09, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Over 50% on Medical Cannabis Experience Withdrawal Symptoms
JAN 09, 2021
Over 50% on Medical Cannabis Experience Withdrawal Symptoms
A new study has found that over half of people who use medical cannabis products for pain relief experience multiple wit ...
Loading Comments...