When you fancy a nut, chances are you’ll find a nutcracker and go to town to reach the prize inside. But did you know that humans aren’t the only creatures on Earth known to crack open nuts with dedicated tools?
Indeed; researchers have observed this behavior in chimpanzees before. But a new study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science this week implies that even wild macaques possess this skill.
Image Credit: Roy Fontaine
While studying long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in the wild, the researchers stumbled upon what some would consider eccentric behavior. Some grabbed rocks weighing as much as 4.5 pounds and smashed sea almonds and shuck oysters with them to obtain the food inside.
"It contributes to our increasing understanding that not only apes and humans use tools for different tasks," said study lead author Professor Tomos Proffitt from University College London in a statement to AFP.
"We should view macaques as highly intelligent problem solvers, in the same way that chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys are and early humans were also."
Researchers see more and more tool usage in numerous kinds of animals not limited to primates. For example, even birds have been known to use tools for some situations, albeit not for opening nuts.
Proffitt believes that the animals learned the skill over time through observation rather than being born with the ability.
"In many cases of primate tool use these behaviors are learned by youngsters through many years of observation and is not something that is genetically coded into them," he added.
The study underscores how animals are more intelligent than we give them credit for, and that they possess similar skillsets that we haven’t been aware of until recently. Additional research could uncover other animals that use the same tools in comparable ways.