What the monkey that threw a cucumber and the Neanderthal woman with Down syndrome reveal about us | Science | EUROtoday

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Twenty years in the past an experiment that was as revealing because it was enjoyable was launched. Two capuchin monkeys, in two neighboring cages, needed to full a easy exercise to obtain a reward: a bit of cucumber. When they acquired it, they ate it gratefully. But in one of many rounds, primatologists Sarah Brosnan and Frans de Waal gave a distinct prize to one in every of them: a grape, rather more valued. Upon seeing it, the individual receiving the cucumber angrily throws it on the researcher. Watch the video, as a result of it's good comedy. Their response makes us snort as a result of it is vitally human, and deep down we’re drawn to the superbly developed sense of injustice of those little monkeys.

The fascinating factor is that it wasn't simply the cucumber monkey that refused to play alongside: even those that benefited from the injustice stopped collaborating. “What is this? Solidarity? 'I'm not a scab'? Self-interest, but with a very unusual long-term vision that takes into account the possible consequences of the resentment of the victim who has received the cucumber?” asks the nice neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky in Behave (Captain Swing). And he explains: “De Waal believes there are even deeper implications—the roots of human morality are older than our cultural institutions, our laws and sermons. Human morality transcends our limits as a species.”

For Brosnan, the experiment signifies that the sense of justice has deep evolutionary roots and is the place to begin for cooperation. Together, they’re two variations which have allowed social cohesion over time. Writes Brosnan: “Humans are not the only ones who respond negatively to differential treatment compared to a peer. “This response is shared with other species and appears to be fundamental for successful cooperation.” From the research in cappuccinos (printed in Nature), the existence of any such response has been demonstrated in a number of species of monkeys, crows, rooks and even canine.

Why would solidarity be an evolutionary enchancment? Wasn't evolution purported to reward particular person traits akin to greater horns, extra lovely feathers, stronger claws, which permit some to dominate others? In the face of the clichés of misunderstood Darwinism, let's return to the monkeys, which maintain the important thing.

The composition shows an aerial view of Monkey Island. On the left, with all its trees, in an image from 2008. On the right, its state in 2020, three years after the hurricane hit.
The composition reveals an aerial view of Monkey Island. On the left, with all its bushes, in a 2008 picture. On the suitable, its state in 2020, three years after the hurricane hit.Joyce Cohen/Michelle Skrabut LaPierre

Specifically, the macaques of Cayo Santiago (Puerto Rico), a small island that serves as a pure laboratory to review these distant cousins ​​of humanity. After the hurricane María In 2017, their lush bushes had been destroyed, leaving the monkeys with little shade to guard themselves from the solar. The images are spectacularly specific. What did the a whole bunch of macaques do after the disaster? Bare their fangs and struggle over scarce sources, like in Hollywood films the place survivors beat one another to demise? When they barely had sufficient shade for everybody, as a substitute of combating for it, they grew to become extra tolerant of strangers and shared it with strangers.

A research printed final Thursday in Science It helps us perceive what is going on: after analyzing the progress of the macaques since that hurricane, scientists have found that those that grew to become extra tolerant decreased their chance of dying by half. Collaborating, serving to one another, is an evolutionary benefit. The largest and sharpest fangs had no prize.

Flying away from there, in area and time, we arrive on the Neanderthal website of Cova Negra, close to Xàtiva. A small bone from a whole bunch of hundreds of years in the past tells an enchanting story: that of little Tina, as researchers have named her. A six-year-old woman (or boy, it isn’t recognized for certain) who most likely had Down syndrome, as a result of the bone had marks related to trisomy. She lived to be six years outdated, that’s, she was cared for and pampered in order that she might attain that age within the very harsh situations wherein they lived at the moment.

Neanderthal family
Representation of the Neanderthal father and daughter discovered within the Chagyrskaya Cave, Russia.Tom Bjorklund

“In all societies where survival is based on this collaboration, no one was left out. In the case of the Neanderthal population, it is increasingly assumed that they had knowledge about the use of resources for certain pathologies, a symbolic world of their own and the care of people with sequelae of serious pathologies who survived for a long time after their illness,” explains archaeologist and midwife Patxuka de Miguel.

Paleontology typically encounters instances like this: sick people, with critical accidents, with congenital issues, who’ve been cared for by the group for years, although they might have appeared a burden to others as a result of selfishness and excessive deprivation. Even chimpanzees have been noticed caring for infants with extreme disabilities. Something tells us that we should look after the weakest, and this pricey intuition just isn’t free: nature doesn’t waste sources.

“Our strength is not individual, it is always as a group. This allows us to welcome and compensate and protect individual weaknesses or fragilities. The weakest is not the physically fragile or the sick, but the one who is alone.” A few years in the past, the director of the National Center for Research on Human Evolution, María Martinón-Torres, framed it with this dedication in an interview on these pages.

And he settled the controversy by declaring that “this portrait of human beings as ruthless, opportunistic, selfish, is not the reality of our nature,” however that pure choice favors “altruistic and prosocial behaviors” for our success, that are what make us prosper: “Individualism has a very short lifespan in this species.”

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