Monkeys recognize friends they haven’t seen in decades

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AGI – Le monkeys are able to recognizejust by looking at the photos, teammates they haven’t seen in over 25 years and react to their friends’ photos with extreme enthusiasm. This is proven by a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work proves the longest-lasting social memory ever documented outside of humans and highlights how human culture evolved from a common ancestor shared with the great apes.

“Chimpanzees and bonobos recognize individuals they haven’t seen in decades,” said Christopher Krupenye, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University who studies animal cognition. “And then there’s this small but significant pattern of increased attention toward individuals with whom they had more positive relationships,” continued Krupenye, who is also lead author of the study. “This – added Krupenye – suggests that it is more than just common knowledge that monkeys monitor aspects related to the quality of social relationships.”

“We tend to think of the great apes as beings very different from us, but in fact the results show that these animals have cognitive mechanisms very similar to those of humans, including memory,” said Laura Lewis, a biological anthropologist and comparative psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “And I think that’s the most interesting aspect of this study,” continued Lewis, who is also the lead author of the study.

The research team was inspired to investigate how long the monkeys remembered their peers during the experience of working with the animals. “You get the impression that they react as if they recognize you and that you are really different to the average zoo guest,” Krupenye explained. “They are happy to see you again,” Krupenye emphasized. “Therefore, the goal of the study was to empirically ask whether monkeys really have a strong and long-lasting memory for remembering their companions,” explained Krupenye.

The team of scientists worked with chimpanzees and bonobos from Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, Planckendael Zoo in Belgium and Kumamoto Nature Reserve in Japan. Scientists collected photos monkeys that have left zoos or died, individuals the participants had not seen for at least nine months and in some cases up to 26 years. The research team also collected information about the relationships each participant had with former group mates: whether there were positive or negative interactions between them and other relationship components.

The team invited the monkeys to participate in the experiment by offering them fruit juice and, while they sipped it, showed them two photos side by side: monkeys they had met in the past and monkeys that were complete strangers. Using a non-invasive eye-tracking device, the research team measured where the monkeys looked and for how long, hypothesizing that they would look longer at monkeys they recognized.

The results showed that the animals looked much longer at their former group mates, regardless of the length of their separation, and looked even longer at their former friends, those with whom they had more positive interactions. In the most extreme case of the bonobo experiment, Louise had not seen her sister Loretta and nephew Erin for more than 26 years at the time of the test. In eight trials, he demonstrated an extremely strong gaze bias toward both.

The findings suggest that apes’ social memory may last longer than 26 years and may be similar to that of humans, which begins to decline at age 15 but can persist for up to 48 years after separation. Such long-lasting social memory, in both humans and monkeys, suggests that this type of memory was probably present millions of years ago in a common evolutionary ancestor.

“This ability to remember likely laid the foundation for the evolution of human culture and enabled the emergence of uniquely human forms of interaction in which relationships are maintained over many years even after separation events,” the authors said. “The idea that monkeys remember information about the quality of their relationships, apart from any potential functionality, is another new discovery that links them to humans,” Krupenye pointed out.

“These kinds of social relationships that shape long-term memory in chimpanzees and bonobos are similar to what we see in humans,” Lewis said. The study also raises the question of whether monkeys miss people who are no longer with them, especially friends and family. “The idea that they remember others and therefore reflect on the loss of those individuals represents a powerful cognitive mechanism that until now has been thought to be uniquely human,” Lewis pointed out.

“Our study did not show that they do, but it raises questions about whether they have the capacity to do so,” Lewis said. The research team hopes the findings will deepen understanding of the great apes, all of which are endangered species, and shed new light on how deeply they can be affected by poaching and deforestation, which separates them from their companions.

“This work clearly shows how fundamental and long-term these relationships are, and how disrupting these relationships is likely to be very damaging to them,” Krupenye concluded. The team’s other goals are to verify whether these long-lasting social memories are specific to great apes or whether other primates also experience them, and how rich apes’ memory is, whether they have, for example, long-term memories related to the experience and the individual.

Reproduction is expressly reserved © Agi 2023

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