For the first time, scientists have been able to prove that wild animals can accomplish tasks after watching others perform them. In a study led by the University of St Andrews and the University of Vienna, researchers proved that wild marmoset monkeys are capable of copying their fellow apes after watching them on TV.
To conduct the study, the re- searchers filmed trained marmosets opening a box to reach the fruit inside. Each monkey opened their box in a different way, by lifting a lid or pulling a drawer.
12 groups of monkeys were then shown these videos. Another group was exposed to a static image.
12 of the monkeys were able to open the box, 11 of which had watched the video. In addition, the monkeys were likely to copy the exact method of opening the box they had seen in the video.
The researchers believe that these findings could open up a range of possibilities for experimentally introducing behaviours and studying the basis of culture in animals.
Professor Andrew Whiten, a Wardlaw professor in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, explained: “Culture pervades our human lives so thoroughly it may seem like it separates us from the rest of the natural world. But our research is showing that the basic elements of social learning and creation of different regional traditions is shared much more widely amongst primates and other animals.”