It has been said for years that only great apes (but not gorillas) are self aware as proven by their passing the mirror and mark tests (read Beyond Animal, Ego and Time). But now other monkeys, especially rhesus monkeys, are showing they can be taught to recognize themselves in a mirror. This means they can be self aware if trained to be so. While we don’t know if the capability in monkeys is age dependent, we do know the human being develops the ability to recognize itself at about two years of age.
It has also proven true that once these rhesus monkeys are taught self-recognition when they look in a mirror, they explore other parts of their bodies they don’t normally see. For many years, mirror self-recognition has been a mark of higher intelligence in humans. With this new knowledge about monkeys, we will have to change our views of our monkey brethren and ourselves.
In addition it has been shown that monkeys in the wild can teach themselves new skills by watching videotapes of other monkeys performing desired tasks. While this appears to be another demonstration of copying behavior, “monkey see, monkey do”, researchers indicate this is the first time video tapes have been used for teaching purposes outside the laboratory.
An array of recent studies show that all mammals share a need to have close friends they can count on in difficult times. These results generalize for humans that friendships are essential to ongoing health and are key to a helping hand when we really need it.
An April 7, 2012 article in Science News quotes Catherine Crockford of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who stated “Knowing this about mammals is sort of a reminder to us, that we can eat as much good food as we want or have as much money as we want, but if we don’t have at least one or two close relationships that we can depend on, life is going to be more difficult for us.”
This is true for all sorts of animals who have shown they will go outside familial relationships to build alliances with other animals. While this is true for humans, it also includes chimps and all kinds of monkeys. Beyond chimps, we can see this behavior from female rhesus macaques, baboons, and bonobos. We see reciprocal grooming, help protecting young animals from pressure or threat from male animals, and the hormone oxytocin as common links that create this bonding. This type of cooperation stretches to female horses, African elephants, dolphins, and hyenas.
These developments and new knowledge should cause us to reexamine our relationships with others. We should reach out to others to create the unions described for our own betterment. We also should realize that creating these types of alliances are ingrained and hereditary amongst all mammals. These insights give us knowledge of the bonds that are possible with our own kind all over the world.
Use the following links to obtain additional information or access original documents used as background for this article.