Please visit the new home of Majikthise at

« New York state may beef up freedom of information laws | Main | Pearl Paint Hellscape »

March 18, 2009

Monkeys may teach their babies how to floss

Primatologists think they've observed Thai monkeys demonstrating tooth flossing to their infants:

"I was surprised because teaching techniques on using tools properly to a third party are said to be an activity carried out only by humans,'' Professor Nobuo Masataka of Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute said today.

His research team observed seven female long-tailed macaques and their offspring and monitored how often the mothers cleaned the spaces between their teeth with strands of human hair, in a colony of 250 animals near Bangkok.

The study found that the frequency of teeth-cleaning roughly doubled and became more elaborate when the infant monkeys were watching, suggesting that the females were deliberately teaching their young how to floss, he said. [Daily Telegraph]

The researchers plan to follow up with the baby monkeys to see if these flossing displays actually help them learn.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Monkeys may teach their babies how to floss:


ok. so far these past few months

1. Zoo Chimp Plots Stone Throwing Attacks

She observed that "on five consecutive days, before the zoo opened, the chimpanzee gathered stones from the water and placed them in caches." Later on each of these days, Santino was seen throwing the rocks at unsuspecting zoo visitors.

"Stone throwing toward a crowd of people has an instant and dramatic effect," Osvath wrote, "and was a way to evoke reactions across the water moat that enclosed the chimpanzee."

"The chimpanzee was observed to gently knock on the concrete rocks, from time to time delivering harder blows to break off the detached surface in section in discoidal pieces, and sometimes breaking these into further smaller fragments," Osvath explained, adding that "these manufactured missiles were often transported to the caches at the shoreline."

2. Chimp can make tool
he team set up video cameras with passive infrared sensors to record how the chimps behaved at termite nests.

The apes, they found, manufactured special "brush sticks" in the knowledge that more termites would hook onto this form of the probe.

The sticks are made from the stems of arrowroot plants, which are picked by the chimps and defoliated. The apes then use their teeth to split the end of the stem and fray the fibres, forming a tip that looks rather like an artist's paintbrush.

More than 80 percent of tools recovered from termite nests in six chimpanzee communities in the Goualougo Triangle have been engineered to give a brush tip, according to the paper.

"Brush sticks" have also been found at other chimp sites in central Africa but, interestingly, chimpanzees in eastern Africa actively remove frayed ends.


I hope the chimps wont ally with octopus to take over the planet. Because at the rate they are learning, they gonna kick our butt and fix global warming first.

Here's the original article.
“When the research started in 2004, we confirmed the tool-use in 9 adult female monkeys, who rode on the head of female tourists, pulled out their hair, and used it to “floss” their teeth. Since then, the number of animals in which we have confirmed similar behavior has increased up to 50, all of which are adults.”
Pretty tolerant tourists indeed.
Now it remains to be seen if there's a decline in the incidence of macaque periodontal disease.

Well, that's it then ... and I, for one, welcome our new simian overlords.

uh oh, they've figured out geometry now.

Chimps use geometry to navigate the jungle

The comments to this entry are closed.