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Poop-throwing by chimpanzees is a sign of intelligence
November 30, 2011 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Studies have shown that chimps are capable of insightful reasoning and nuanced communication. Apparently, the individuals that are the smartest are also the most adept at slinging their own poo.
posted by Laminda (34 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ha! See! I told them I wasn't crazy!!
posted by run"monty at 1:13 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, the applications to (human) anthropology are utterly staggering!
posted by jeffburdges at 1:17 PM on November 30, 2011


This is a hilarribly accurate metaphor for the fights that go on here and in MeTa.
posted by elizardbits at 1:21 PM on November 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


The studies involved two chimps, a mother and its son [...]

:(

Okay, continuing to read now.
posted by jinjo at 1:22 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd say throwing your feces has several layers of nuance.
posted by NationalKato at 1:26 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


It makes sense in its own disgusting way. The chimps very well may know that flinging poo is a transgressive act. Being aware that there are limits and that others will have a reaction when those limits are crossed surely has to be a signpost of intelligence.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:27 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being aware that there are limits and that others will have a reaction when those limits are crossed surely has to be a signpost of intelligence.

Take it to MeTa.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:33 PM on November 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Well, plus the mental calculations it takes to handle the chain of sensory-motor actions to actually throw something. The article says that chimps are the only other species known to throw things in an attempt to hit something else; I never thought about it but it's a pretty complicated act.

And add in the fact that the smartest chimps don't just throw the most often but the most accurately. Accurately hitting something with a thrown object, poop or otherwise, takes quite a bit of mental processing too.
posted by penduluum at 1:34 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alternately: Fling it and move on.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:35 PM on November 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


From the longer Wired write-up, which contains a link to the published study:
“If I was going to get s–t thrown at me, I was going to get something out of it,” said Hopkins.
Well that's basically the subtext in every thesis defense, grant proposal, and manuscript revision right there.

*sob*
posted by Westringia F. at 1:36 PM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: The most adept at slinging their own poo.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:37 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd say throwing your feces has several layers of nuance.

Layers of something, definitely.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:37 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


How long before the New York Monkey Times issues an editorial lamenting that this generation's best and brightest are being recruited into poo-slinging, rather than socially productive pursuits? Whatever happened to idealism?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 1:45 PM on November 30, 2011


Accurately hitting something with a thrown object, poop or otherwise, takes quite a bit of mental processing too.

So why can't most of us nerds hit the broad side of a barn with a softball?
posted by bondcliff at 1:53 PM on November 30, 2011


First you need to get into a fight with the barn about operating systems.
posted by elizardbits at 1:56 PM on November 30, 2011 [15 favorites]


"It is a short walk from the hallelujah to the hoot." -- Vladimir Nabokov.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:03 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


This will certainly enliven next year's Ignobels.
posted by Diablevert at 2:05 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Researches find poop-throwing by chimps is a sign of intelligence

This (finally!) explains every single promotion at the company at which I work over the past 10 years.
posted by chavenet at 2:09 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


So why can't most of us nerds hit the broad side of a barn with a softball?

Apparently we've all filled up our Broca's areas with the rules and nuances of Klingon consonant pronunciation.
posted by penduluum at 2:09 PM on November 30, 2011


It is quite egocentric to believe humans are the only creatures capable of genius. Humans love to put things they don't see or understand into a neat little category of "it doesn't matter". I'm not surprised in the least. The better we know the inhabitants we share this planet with the better we can understand our place in it.
posted by gypseefire at 2:11 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


So why can't most of us nerds hit the broad side of a barn with a softball?

I'm not even sure if it's "most" nerds. I think the main problem is that nerds are often ostracized from team sports and similar organized activities. Team sports usually involve a lot of posturing, blustering and trash talking and other chimpanzee politics. These displays often lead to a case of the yips - performance anxiety.

Take away the verbal and physical sparring and the competitive nature of team sports and replace it with, say, juggling, surfing, skateboarding, riding unicycles, archery/shooting or other individual physical activities and many nerds discover that they're really not that clumsy.

Many nerds discover they can excel at these individual activities once the psychological component of fear of getting absolutely destroyed by jocks is removed.

This is also why so many nerds are fantastic at sex. Sure, it might take forever to break the ice and get them to relax, but once that fuse is lit... good luck finding your socks the next morning.
posted by loquacious at 2:11 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am a nerd. I cant hit the broad side of an aircraft carrier with a softball and I kick soccer balls to generate true random numbers.

But I can hit a soda can at 35 yards with an improvised blowgun and dart every time.

Ball sports require big muscle coordination and strength, aiming a projectile weapon requires fine muscle control and lots of mental calculation. While you risk your life throwing rocks at a mammoth I will be in my hut cooking the dozen squirrels I just picked of a tree from my front porch.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 2:21 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Studies have shown that chimps are capable of insightful reasoning and nuanced communication. Apparently, the individuals that are the smartest are also the most adept at slinging their own poo.

I thought MetaFilter had a strict policy about political editorializing in FPPs?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:21 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jane Goodall, I can feel the poo flinging over my head.
posted by ursus_comiter at 2:31 PM on November 30, 2011


So why can't most of us nerds hit the broad side of a barn with a softball?

Like Ayn Rand and God, I don't have softball skills, but I can get an odd shaped piece of garbage into any trash can of any size from any reasonable distance. Basketball? Forget it. Crumpled up straw paper into yogurt container? I'm your man.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:53 PM on November 30, 2011


Ball sports require big muscle coordination and strength

Additionally they require practice. I figure that's the main reason we're not as good as jocks at hitting the proverbial barn with the proverbial softball: they've tried a lot more often.
posted by penduluum at 2:59 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait does that mean that Michele Bachmann's a genius?
posted by jcrcarter at 4:13 PM on November 30, 2011


Does this mean I'm smart for wanting to play the card game called "Poo"?
posted by symbioid at 4:40 PM on November 30, 2011


penduluum: "Ball sports require big muscle coordination and strength

Additionally they require practice. I figure that's the main reason we're not as good as jocks at hitting the proverbial barn with the proverbial softball: they've tried a lot more often.
"

They've also tried hitting the proverbial symbioid with their proverbial arm in a proverbial cast in the proverbial back of the proverbial head.

God Proverbial It!
posted by symbioid at 4:42 PM on November 30, 2011


chimps are the only other species known to throw things in an attempt to hit something else

Yeah, well, that's just mammal-o-centrism (I just made up that word.) The archer fish makes a living by throwing jets of water at insects.
posted by binturong at 6:02 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


puanced communication.
posted by ian1977 at 6:17 PM on November 30, 2011


Spitting cobras can accurately fire at eyes at a distance of 3 metres. Poo-throwing ain't nuthin'. Uppity primates.
posted by binturong at 6:21 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are some interesting things in the article.

1. Throwing things (shit, monkey chow, etc) is not usually part of chimpanzee display behavior.

2. Chimps who regularly throw things are better at identifying where another individual (a human experimenter) is looking, at communicating the location of food, and deciding the best way to get the attention of another individual who is either looking at them, or looking away from them.

3. Throwing things gives chimps different benefits than we usually think of when talking about the evolution of throwing behavior - chimps aren't hitting mammoths with spears (for example), but we usually think of the evolution of throwing behavior as it relates to hunting in early human ancestors. Chimps (they suggest) are using throwing to manipulate people, and the authors suggest that chimpanzee throwing behavior has the same cognitive origin as other chimpanzee communication, especially gestural behavior. Throwing shit is in the same set of behaviors as pointing, or motioning away from something.

Pretty cool stuff, actually!
posted by ChuraChura at 6:52 PM on November 30, 2011


Egyptian vultures throw stones at eggs to break them open. OK I'm done with the examples of non-primate projectile throwers. I'm a little tired of the concept that just because primates have hands like us they must be super-intelligent (like us, amazing!) Try flying through the air at night and locating insects like bats do and see how intelligent you are. Sorry for the rant but the "insightful reasoning" and "nuanced communication" conclusions are so Homo-centric by definition I have to discount them just a little. As self-appointed rulers of the animal kingdom our awards to the lowlier creatures seem a little tarnished.
posted by binturong at 7:35 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


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