Researchers found that chimpanzees could not only cook food if given the chance, but that they also prefer their food to be cooked.
A recent study posted earlier this week, on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that chimps have the mental capacity of understanding the concept of cooking, telling the difference between cooked food and raw food, and often chose to carry their food for a while in order to cook it rather than eat it as soon as they find it.
Felix Warneken, co-author of the study and developmental psychologist at Harvard University, informed that the only thing the chimps don’t understand is how to start a fire. However, he stressed that if given access to a source of heat, chimps would most likely figure out how to use it in order to cook better meals.
Warneken believes that the ability to cook emerged early in human evolution and helped the human race further develop. He gave a statement saying that “It is an important question when cooking emerged in human evolution. We thought one way to get at this question is to investigate whether chimpanzees, in principle, have the critical cognitive capacities for cooking”.
He says that since our close evolutionary relative have these skills, it’s same to assume that once early humans learned how to use and control fire, they also started using it for cooking. This helped them evolve into modern humans as cooked food is easier to digest and enables the growth of large brains.
For their study, co-authors Felix Warneken and Alexandra Rosati conducted nine (9) experiments at Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Republic of Congo in order to gather the needed data.
They tested several wild-born chimpanzees to see whether or not they were able to make the mental leaps needed in order to cook.
The early tests of the study found that the animals preferred cooked sweet potatoes to raw ones, and that they were even willing to wait patiently for the food to cook before eating it.
The next step was to prove that chimps truly understood the concept of cooking and to find out whether of not they would attempt to cook items spontaneously.
To achieve this, the researchers gave the chimps two (2) devices. One was a cooking device of sorts, which would transform raw food into cooked food. The other was a control device that left the food unchanged.
The chimpanzees witnessed the researchers put raw sweet potatoes into both devices. When they were given the chance to choose between the sweet potato that went into the cooking device and the sweet potato that went into the other device, almost every chimp chose the sweet potato that was actually cooked. The inevitable conclusion was that the chimps understood that a transformation had taken place.
The last experiment meant to test whether or not chimps themselves would chose to put their food into the cooking device. They did.
As a measure of control, the researchers also conducted another test where they gave chimps a raw potato and a piece of wood. The animals only put the potato in the cooking device, suggesting that they understood exactly which items could be cooked and which could not.
Image Source: onekind.org