11 Human-like Behaviors of Monkeys and Apes | Our Beautiful Planet

Human-like Behaviors of Apes & Monkeys





Scientists have sequenced the chimp genome and found that humans share 85% to 96% of our DNA with chimps. According to nationalgeograhic.com, the number of genetic differences between chimps and humans is 10x smaller than the differences between mice and rats.

Humans and chimps, as well as many other great apes, descend from a similar ancestor 5-8 million years ago. During the evolutionary process the two species genes evolved differently, but many similarities to monkeys and apes are still seen today in modern humans.

1. They Say no

For the first time, in 2010, Bonobos were seen shaking their head to discourage other from doing something. This is seen perhaps as a precursor to a human headshake.

This was observed most often when mother Bonobos tried to get their infants to stop doing an action they disapproved of.
Below is video showing demonstrating this behavior.

2. They beg for food

In places such as India and the Philippines, where wild monkey populations are very high, it is a common sight to see them beg humans for food. The photo below shows wild monkeys in Maguindanao who came out of the trees to beg passing motorists for an easy meal.
Monkeys begging for food

This particular group of monkeys was driven out by food shortages stemming from a long drought present in the area. However, in other places like India, monkeys are regarded as god-like creatures. Monkeys living in areas such as those, may have learned that it is easier to ask humans for food than it is to seek it out on their own.

3. They Mourn their Dead

An episode of the program that aired on the BBC called ‘Spy in the Wild’, was based around the premise of putting a baby ‘spy cam’ robo-monkey in a group of Langur Monkeys to observe their behavior. During one episode, one of the Langur Monkeys gets curious, and decides to mother the ‘spy cam.’ After accidently dropping the camera, the monkey goes to investigate its condition, only to believe it is dead. Though this baby didn’t belong to any monkey in the group, the small pack all gather round to mourn what they believe is a dead infant. They are being observed putting their arms around another’s shoulders comfortingly. This encounter showed that Langur Monkeys have a similar response to death as humans.

4. They Have the Cognitive Capabilities to Cook

Scientist have just discovered through recent studies, that Chimpanzees possess the mental capabilities needed to cook food. Multiple experiments were performed at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to test out this theory.

During this experiment, chimps were given a ‘cooking device’. This device was merely a plastic lunchbox with the bottom cut out. The hollow bottomed device was used to change raw sweet potatoes, to cooked sweet potatoes, to see which the chimps would prefer.

90% of the time, the chimps opted for the cooked vegetables, even waiting a minute patiently for the sweet potatoes to ‘cook.’

Chimps were also noticed to hoard vegetables if they knew they would be able to get them cooked, and this also shows that our early ancestors may have developed a taste for cooked food and the adaption of cooking earlier than previously believed.

5. They Use Tools

While the tools used are not as advanced as modern humans, it is still an impressive feat that multiple species of monkey and apes have been observed making use of tools to help secure a meal.

Gorillas have been observed using twigs to scoop insects out of logs to eat, and various species of other primates have been observed making use of stones as a means to eat nuts and shellfish.

This image shows a South American Capuchin monkey utilizing a stone as a tool to crack open a nut it has found.

Monkey using a tool
(Photo Credit: Dave Watts/ NPL)

6. They are able to Recognize and Distinguish Faces

Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, located at Emory University, conducted a study in 2009 to see if Rhesus Monkeys shared a similar ability to humans, Configural Perception. Configural Perception , in simpler terms, is the ability to remember, recognize, and distinguish different faces. Through an experiment using ‘The Thatcher Effect’ the researchers at Emory were surprised to see the Rhesus Monkeys had similar reactions of recognition as humans did to familiar faces.

This study not only proved that Rhesus Monkeys and humans share similar cognition abilities when it comes to facial perception, but they use the recognition to develop interpersonal relationship with members of their group and kin.

7. They Can Develop and Understand Monetary Systems

Two researchers from Yale, Keith Chen and Laurie Santos, conducted an experiment in 2005 which involved teaching Capuchin Monkeys how to use ‘money’ to get food.

Santos and Chen used a small silver disc with a hole in the middle as a coin to teach the monkey to trade the ‘money’ for fruit. After months of teaching the Capuchins how to exchange the silver discs for what they desired, the two researchers gave the seven monkeys used each 12 silver coins to ‘spend’ as they pleased. Throughout this study they learned that the monkeys could budget to get the best price on the fruit offered, and were even able to be taught the concepts needed to gamble.

One monkey was even seen to exchange the coin for sex with another capuchin, who then used that coin to buy some grapes, in the first documented case of Capuchin prostitution.

8. They Binge Eat Because of Stress

Rhesus Monkeys live in a strict hierarchy in which the subordinate monkeys experience a life with much higher stress than their dominants.

In a study performed by neuroscientist Mark Wilson, two female monkeys, a dominant and subordinate, were offered banana flavored pellets high in sugar and fat. It was observed that the subordinate female indulged in the pellets at a higher rate and caloric intake, than the less stressed out dominant female.

While the dominate Rhesus only ate the pellets during daylight hours, the subordinate monkey was seen to continue to snack on the sugary pellets well after daylight hours. This helped prove that when under stress, monkeys, like humans, appear to crave sweeter, fatty foods, to cope with the stress hormones present in the brain.

9. They Laugh Out Loud

Scientist have uncovered some species of the great apes, such as Orangutans, Bonobo’s and Gorillas all have the ability to laugh out loud. This similarity to humans was discovered during an experiment which involved tickling Bonobos and other apes, to see how they reacted.

Though the way their laughter sounds differs from modern human laughter, scientists have concluded through this study that humans and apes show positive feelings in a similar fashion.

10. Brain Similarities

Using brain imaging techniques, it was discovered that humans and chimps have quite a bit of overlap when it comes to brain functions. Similarities appeared in the regions of the brain that are associated with reflecting on the mental self of not only themselves, but of also of others.

This proved that Chimpanzees may have a similar thought process as humans, even though it may not be as highly evolved.

11. They Have Similar Personality Traits

It was discovered that humans and apes share distinct personality traits. During a study, it was proven that Chimpanzees share five personality traits with humans. These traits are reactivity/undependability, dominance, openness, extraversion, and agreeableness.

Due to the fact that personality is a major factor in how an individual communicates with others, it was also observed that chimps and humans also shared similar hand gestures when communicating with others based of the personality traits observed.

The information gained while studying these Chimpanzees gives key insights into the evolution of humans and chimps from a common ancestor.




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Shannon Doherty

With a background in business and Wildlife ecology I have been a nature enthusiast all my life. If I'm not writing, I can be found buying too many books, hiking, or cuddling my pet Degu.