Comments: 217 • Responses: 93  • Date: 

Idleworker14 karma

Not asking if it is a good idea. But do you think Humanzees are possible?

apj073112 karma

Humans have 46 chromosomes and chimps have 48. I'm not sure the young could survive even if fertilization could occur.



apj07315 karma

A Russian scientist during WWII tried it by fertilizing a human female egg with chimpanzee sperm and a chimpanzee egg with human sperm. Neither were successful.



ninja91111 karma

If i were wounded, thirsty, or dying, do you think the chimpanzee would help me? In other words, do they express compassion towards other species?

apj073114 karma

Not in the wild probably. Maybe captive chimps. I can only think of 1 or 2 cases of surrogacy in the wild. If an infant's mother dies usually no one takes over as mother and the infant is left to her own devices. They may drag her as the group moves but no one provides food. Bonobos and gorillas exhibit this behavior more often.

ninja9115 karma

Interesting. Thanks.

apj07312 karma

You're welcome!

beethovenshair9 karma

After observing primate behaviour, what was the most startling observation in relation to humans? I.e. similarities and differences. And how has that affected your perspectives on humans?

apj073115 karma

Nori, at the time 2 years old, only 2 months older than my daughter, did a lot of the same goofy things like walking around with a blanket over her head. Blanket

I have also seen tickling games between mother and daughter. Tickle

beethovenshair6 karma

So would you say that their adolescence is much more similar to ours than we think?

apj07318 karma

Oh yes! Other than a lot more muscle strength and control (the ability to climb high structures and swing) the behavior in infancy is almost identical. I had a lot of fun just looking at the 4 infants I work with and remembering my daughter doing that.

dankzephyr7 karma

what are your thoughts/opinions, on the possibility of undiscovered primate species, (e.g. big foot)?

apj073114 karma

Small primates, sure. We discover new species of small primates quite often. The issue with Bigfoot is she would be very large and this would make it difficult to hide.

There was a "Bigfoot" at one point. The species is Gigantopithecus. They lived in Asia and were very large. They would have been a branch off of the orangutan lineage.

LatinWizard7 karma

When people say that humans are 99% similar to chimps, what exactly does that mean?

apj073111 karma

It means that our genetic code lines up ~98.6% of the time. The difference is humans have 46 chromosomes and other apes have 48. This is caused by a mutation on what corresponds with chimpanzee chromosome 13. If you look at human chromosome 2 you can see 2 centrimeres and a telomere in the center of the chromosome. Telomeres are end markers.

oakstave7 karma

This is fascinating to me, I am so glad you are doing this.

I have been studying bonobos while writing a science fiction story. Most studies emphasize the gentle nature, overt sexuality and matriarchal structure. Other papers I've read indicate that the level of meat-eating, aggression, and sexuality is quite similar between bonobo and chimpanzee.

Do you have any insights into this issue? Are bonobo and chimpanzee essentially the same social structure, or are there real differences?

Edit: I am enjoying the links.

apj073118 karma

There are HUGE differences. Chimpanzees are a male dominated species and conflict is dealt with through aggression and mediation.

Bonobos are female dominated and deal with conflict through sex and mediation.

The confusion with chimp and bonobo sexual behavior is that they both engage in promiscuous sexual behavior which just means that anyone can technically mate with anyone. In some chimp groups the alpha male will control who mates with who.

"Cultures" differ from chimp group to chimp group so it really just depends who and where you are looking. There are so few bonobos that the culture doesn't vary much.

Bonobos are very gentle though. I met a woman that has been working with them for about 25 years and she says it is very rare to see all out aggression. They do hunt though, but like chimps it doesn't occur often.

oakstave3 karma

Thanks for the reply. That matches my reading on the issue, it was really one study only that appeared to cast some doubt on it.

Have you been involved in any cross-species language studies with great apes? (Use of lexigrams, etc.)

If I may set up a question: Apes are not able to speak due to the difference in voice box biology. Apes can't do the velopharyngeal closure needed, and have the wrong mouth and tongue structure for 'human-like' spoken language.

So we communicate with the great apes with variants of ASL, and lexigram word boards...

How much of the 'native' chimpanzee language is verbal, as opposed to body language? Have you ever attempted, as Jane Goodall did, to emulate their language in a group?

apj07316 karma

I don't use lexicons but Duke University works with some individuals from my group with the lexicon. It is pretty interesting. I do noninvasive observation.

"Language" is a bad term to use. Most of their communication takes place in body language and facial expressions. They vocalize to designate their location in dense areas. Some groups have specific vocalizations for snakes and other threats. Other than that all vocal communication revolves around food acquisition.

Funny story; I get to spend the entire day on October 1 with Jane Goodall.

SciHammar3 karma

Interesting. When you talk with apes is the conversation an actual representation of what the ape is thinking, or does it just learn how to respond without knowing what's going on? Not sure if my question was clear enough, I just mean do the apes think up "words" (bad way to put it, I know) for themselves, or merely go through the motions?

apj07316 karma

I have seen chimps string together words on a lexigram to make a sentence conveying something they want.

Koko also made up a word for flower in ASL. She didn't know flower so she calls it "stink" because they smell. She also calls her snacks which the keepers call browse "brows" like eyebrows.

rbaltimore3 karma

She is awesome! I volunteered at her institute, just answering phones and organizing dvds and stuff. When she would call in, if it got routed through the main line, I got to talk to her. She was always so nice, and treated me and the other volunteers like actual people.

Tell her some random anthropology BA says hi!

apj07311 karma

lol ok. She is doing a lecture at ECU that day and there are only 3 primatologists here so we get to spend the day with her.

rbaltimore3 karma

She has a very quiet voice, it's easier to follow her once you realize it. And the chimps at Gombe are her children, you'll hear lots of fun stories!

apj07312 karma

I'm very excited!

oakstave2 karma

You lucky, lucky man! I would be so excited.

It was my dream to do exactly what you do right now. You must have a lot of patience.

apj07314 karma

I do. I actually have to have more patience for when I am doing outreach with the community than I do in my research. Talking to teenagers can be excruciating. They ask really dumb questions or call them monkeys.

KittenTheKitten2 karma

On that note, don't you wish humans were a female dominate species?

apj07312 karma

I do, it would be much less violent and more amicable.

KittenTheKitten4 karma

I read the book Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. It implies that paleolithic human culture is more like the bonobo than the chimpanzee. Where did we go wrong?

apj07318 karma

I've not read that book but I've never seen any evidence of a female dominant social structure in human history. That is something that is hard to test. The earliest evidence that is definitive shows a male dominated society.

ferlgatr6 karma

In what way have the chimpanzees surprised you with their intellegence, or lack thereof?

apj07318 karma

I watched Nori, the two year old, spend 45 minute trying to carry her blanket to the top of a climbing structure. It took her FOREVER to figure it out.

ferlgatr7 karma

Have they done something clever that has every surprised you?

apj073114 karma

Amy, one of the lower ranked females, found this older plastic gutter buried in the ground. She torn it out and used it to transport water in to the shade and drink.

Nori, the two year old, first started to learn tool use and it was really funny. She used her mouth to manipulate the tool instead of her hands. Tool

oakstave6 karma

How optimistic are you for the future of the species? I read very little positive news about conservation these days...

apj073112 karma

I'm not optimistic. We will almost definitely see orangutans and gorillas go extinct in our lives. Possibly bonobos and chimps soon after. Gibbons and siamangs may hold out a little longer.

KGFIII5 karma

This is ridiculously sad and I sincerely hope you turn out to be wrong (as I'm sure you do.) I don't know anything about endangered species conservation, but it seems like 140,000 would be a pretty good number to repopulate if people changed their habits and stopped poaching. That some people don't care about preserving such an incredible and in many ways human-like species is really a shame.

By the way, this AMA was excellent. I learned quite a bit and every answer was informative. I know you might not read this since I'm a day late, but thanks for doing it.

apj07313 karma

Thank you, I appreciate it. Sorry it took so long to reply, I had to teach a class.

CousensX6 karma

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get into this type of field?

apj073114 karma

First, go to college. I got my degrees in Anthropology and Philosophy while minoring in Behavioral Psychology. A biology degree could also work.

I would suggest also getting to know a primatologist at your local university. This can really help formulate what direction you may want to go in.

You really need a sense of adventure and a drive to help protect primates. Other than humans, every other primate on the planet is endangered. There has been a drop from about 2 million to 140,000 chimps in the wild in just the last ~75 years.

2feetorless6 karma

Do they fling their poo?

apj073110 karma

Chimpanzees do not normally throw poo and when they do it is considered an abnormal behavior. It is usually caused by stressors or poor treatment. I have never seen it happen.

mikhthumbelina6 karma

are there any surprisingly unique behavioural similarities we share with them?

apj073117 karma

Kissing and hugging their children. Tickle games.

Infant and juvenile behavior is VERY similar. Jonathan, a 16 year old male acts like a 16 year old male. He loves teenage girls. He shows off and swaggers.


newsballs5 karma

I've read/watched documentaries that say that chimpanzees in the wild will sometimes rape and murder other groups of chimpanzees. But read this piece which calls what chimps, do "forced copulation" because rape is a moral and legal definition.

Based on your observations do you agree? Or are chimps capable of evil acts?

apj073111 karma

I wouldn't consider chimpanzee "rape" evil. They don't have a complex moral system (although they do exhibit understanding of some right and wrong behavior.) I've never seen that type of behavior. What I have observed is if a male tries to force himself on a female either the alpha male roughs him up or other females come over and ruin his world.

"Evil" is relative to the parties involved.

For instance young adult male orangutans who haven't developed their cheek flaps yet can't get a mate because they still look feminine. The only way for them to mate is forced. The female will cry out and other females come and beat him up.

misophone95 karma

If it is the alpha male doing the raping will the other females react the same way? Also, if the male being raped cries out, do females come to his aid as it would if he were a she?

apj07314 karma

Yes, the females will still gang up on the alpha. Homosexual behavior in chimpanzees is uncommon. It is very common in bonobos but it is consensual.

XephirothUltra5 karma

What got you interested in primates?

apj07316 karma

I met Dr. Jane Goodall while working as a freelance herpetologist at a zoo. Then when I went to college I worked with Dr. Linda Wolfe, who is the leading expert on Japanese Snow Monkeys and invented the study of ethnoprimatology.

After working with Gibbons and Orangutans for a while I fell in love with Chimpanzees.

LucanGagnon5 karma

What is the strangest thing that you've seen a chimpanzee do?

apj073112 karma

Coprophagy (feces eating) is very uncommon in chimpanzees and considered an abnormal behavior but kids are stupid. I saw Nori (2 years old) like her own feces and she freaked out and started wiping her tongue off with her hands and gagging.

name_with_a_y6 karma

Nori sounds like she's a bit special.

apj07312 karma

She's a dumb kid, like a ll children. If no one tells a kid not to lick poo they will try it out of curiosity. She never did it again.

nootao4 karma

do you ever feed the chimpanzees meat? They do hunt other smaller "monkeys" right?

apj073111 karma

I don't feed them meat. I don't feed them anything. They do not get meat where I am. Protein is attained through a special mix. They also can forage for foods.

Chimpanzees do hunt monkeys, small pigs, fish, birds int he wild.

misophone94 karma

Do chimps morn death? If they do, how similar is it to humans? I read a story a couple years back about Travis the chimpanzee who attacked Charla Nash and the owner said he had Lyme disease which sometimes causes psychosis, have you ever seen this happen? Is it a prominent disease among chimps? It also said he was given Xanax, are 'human' drugs like that used often for chimps? Sorry for all the questions, I'm just really curious.

apj07316 karma

Chimps do mourn death. There are no burial rituals but they cry over dead loved ones. Chimpanzees actually cry.

The chimp that attacked the woman was on drugs, obese, abused, and A CHIMPANZEE. They are unpredictable. A lot of human drugs work fine with chimps. Some chimps that are rescued from labs and have PTSD (chimps can get mental disorders) are treated with medication.

ithinkimfloatingaway3 karma

do they do anything with the dead bodies?

do chimps go through certain habits or schedules, or do certain things at certain times?

this has been a very interesting AMA! i hope we can educate the public enough so all these wonderful animals (and plants) don't become extinct.

apj07314 karma

They do not.

They wake up at dawn and split into smaller groups to go do daily activities like tool making, foraging, patrolling, mating, sleeping. At the hottest part of the day they sleep.

Thank you, I do my best!

user394 karma

Did you stumble upon psychopathology in chimpanzees? What did it look like?

apj073110 karma

The group I study does exhibit a few psychopathologies. The alpha male, Sokoto and Gari (a ~30 year old female) both overgroom. This leads to large patches of missing hair.

Sokoto Gari

Kendall was an entertainment chimp (we rescued) and has no chimp social skills and exhibits clapping and other things he was trained to do. Kendall

workguy3 karma

I got bit by a monkey in the Amazon forests of Peru, fortunately for me there was an American Primatologist present on my tour that said I was good, wasn't gonna die.

apj07316 karma

I don't work with monkeys much but that is fortunate. Many disease carried by nonhuman primates are capable of being contracted by humans with no need to mutate.

GeneralTry3 karma

How dangerous is a pissed off chimp?

apj07313 karma

VERY! They throw rocks and sticks. They kick and slap, sometimes bite.

GeneralTry3 karma

I grabbed this snippet from a "creepypasta" story (which some claim to be true):

He holds the door open for the animal that was running in the hall in the previous video. It’s revealed to be an adult chimpanzee, its hair shaved and its entire body painted red. It seemed to be starved and abused, with several wounds along it’s shoulders and back. When the chimp enters the room, the masked man closes the door behind it. The chimpanzee sniffs the air for a moment (it may have been blind), and notices the woman tied to the mattress. It goes into a frenzy, and begins to maul her. The assault goes on for a grueling 7 minutes, until the woman finally dies. The chimp eats flesh from her corpse for 4 minutes as the video ends.

Is it possible for a chimp to behave that agressively and would this animal ever resort to eating flesh?

apj07314 karma

Chimpanzees hunt! They make spears to hunt bushbabys. They hunt in very complex ways. It differs between groups. Hunting Colobus Spear Use

Chimps can be very aggressive if the situation facilitates it.

thePuppyStomper3 karma

How much would and average chimp be able to bench press?

apj07311 karma

Oh I don't know... But look at those muscles!


ARatherOddOne3 karma

If you had to take a guess, how much do you think they could bench press?

apj07316 karma

I don't know because I'm not sure how their arms move in that motion. It could be possible that we can do more just based on mechanical differences. They are knucklewalkers so their shoulders are specialized for that.

rhesus_pieces3 karma

I am in a tangentially related field, I love working with monkeys (I have real monkeys, not apes). Just wanted to say thanks for doing what you do! I would love to do what you do :)

apj07314 karma

My mentor, Linda Wolfe, works with monkeys; Rhesus and Japanese Snow Monkeys. I love monkeys, I'm just very concerned about preserving the apes for the future. Humans are 100% of the reason they are all on the brink of extinction.

rhesus_pieces3 karma

I work with Cynos currently but used to work with Rhesus. (Neuroscience/biomedical research). My monkeys are considered pests in many areas of the world, but the apes are much more threatened by humans :(

apj07313 karma

Yes they are. I am working to alleviate this.

Idleworker3 karma

What do chimpanzees smell like? Do they have body odor similar to humans?

apj07314 karma

I've never sniffed one. I don't get that close to them usually. I know they have stinky breath though. When they have to have procedures under general anesthesia I've got a face full. But I don't recall an odor from their bodies.

Lefthandofgod2793 karma

There's a lot of debate with the idea of various apes being able to learn ASL, especially with Koko, as critics suggest that her handler is just taking whatever random sign Koko uses and extrapolates meaning from it. So I guess my questions are:

Where do you stand on the idea of training chimps/apes to learn ASL? Furthermore, do you think it's possible?

apj07318 karma

Koko does sign actual signs. I think sign language is ineffective as many signs can't be done because of the lack of mobility in the hand. Using a lexigram is a much better avenue to take when wanting to communicate with nonhuman primates.

Lefthandofgod2793 karma

How hard would it be to teach a primate to communicate using a lexigram? Has there been much research on the subject?

apj07313 karma

They already do it. It is mainly done with chimps and bonobos. Duke University is doing it with my group. It isn't something you can force them to learn. They have to be interested.

Foxodi3 karma

But if one learns it, and can then benefit from it by getting the toys/food etc they want, wouldn't others become more interested?

apj07316 karma

The group I work with isn't. out of 16 individuals only 3 adults are interested.

TroggyDoggy3 karma

I'm certain you probably don't feel we should all run out and purchase a pet chimpanzee, but what about other non-human primates. Are there any that actually thrive in a domesticated environment?

*sorry for not sticking strictly to chimpanzee stuff

apj07314 karma

I'm not sure. I'm sure they would make fine companions but probably are too smart to keep as a pet.

Foxodi3 karma

What about a private sanctuary? I was just thinking last night it would be pretty awesome if I had a family of great apes on a private island.

apj07317 karma

There would be a lot you would need to learn and you would need a lot of money.

Lesson 1: Chimpanzees are super manipulative.

oakstave3 karma

How are the opposable thumbs of chimpanzees different from the opposable thumbs of humans? (In terms of functional use, not anatomical details.)

Is there a simple human task, like hammering a nail, that just couldn't be done by chimps without adaptive equipment?

apj07317 karma

Their thumb are shorter and do not have a good range of motion. This causes their ability to manipulate objects to be lessened. Our grip and ability to have very precise grip was selected for through a greater reliance on tool use for survival.

Chimps rely on tools but not to the extent that our ancestors did. Chimpanzee "tool boxes" haven't really evolved much, there has been very little pressure to adapt.

oakstave3 karma

Given their intelligence, I'm often at a loss why they didn't develop spears, more permanent dwellings, rain shelters... etc.

But I think you hit it on the head, where they live/evolved, that pressure simply wasn't there.

It makes me think some terrible things must have been happening to early hominids for us to evolve to our current form!

apj07318 karma

In Fongoli chimps do make and use spears. They use them to hunt bushbabys. Some chimps do live in caves and some do get out of the rain. Traditions vary SO MUCH between areas that, for instance, in Gombe the are COMPLETELY different than in Fongoli.

oakstave5 karma

Wow, I didn't know that.

What are the essential differences you see between 'captive' chimpanzee traditions and 'wild' chimpanzee traditions?

apj07314 karma

The variety of tool use is much more prevalent in wild chimps. These behaviors aren't seen in captivity much because there isn't many individuals to teach it.

latigidigital3 karma

To what extent will chimpanzees in the wild interact with touchscreen devices?

apj07312 karma

I'm not aware of any studies done with wild chimpanzees. Primatologists don't like to mess with their normal routines and introduce our culture into theirs. It perverts the data.



apj07311 karma

Vocalizations differ from group to group. One group my have a high grunt for a specific fruit while one across the country may use a low grunt for the same food.

The word recognition has been known for a while. What is really interesting is seeing chimps, gorillas, and bonobos using symbolic language via a lexigram to communicate things that aren't told to the or in their immediate vicinity.

Feelz323 karma

What are the odds of ever domesticating apes, or at least removing the risk if them going into hulk mode? I realize that would remove part of what I love about chimps, but I just love them so much. Just observing them at the zoo for two hours is no longer doing it for me.

apj07317 karma

I don't think it's possible to completely remove "hulk-out mode". A lot of that has to do with their socialization. Although we share a lot of the same body language and facial expressions, in the wrong context can seem like a hierarchical challenge and set them off; especially males.

Feelz324 karma

I already knew that, but I just had to ask. I'll gladly settle for being the weird guy who hangs out at their enclosure for way too long. It's just that after a while, I swear they're inviting me come in, one inparticular.

apj073115 karma

Oh, they invite me all the time so I definitely understand. Jonathan, a 16 male is my best friend, When I get to their area in the morning he spends the first couple hours just sitting with me. If I ignore him he gets pissed and blows me off.

sifulicious2 karma

Not to sound like I'm bagging on your field, this is a serious question: What's the point of studying chimpanzee behavior?

apj07313 karma

Different people do it for different reasons but right now I do it to improve habitats and treatment in American facilities for the SSP.

My goal is to work with wild chimps, study their behavior, to help prevent them from going extinct. They are important to study because they are our closest living relatives and can give us insight into what a few behaviors that our ancestors may have done.

ITwitchToo2 karma

What sort of things do parents teach their children? How important is this knowledge transfer between the generations? Is there any difference in surrogacy?

I'm a computer scientist and never had a chance to really interact with apes (or monkeys) apart from maybe half an hour at a zoo, even though I find them incredibly fascinating. I kinda wish it were possible to stay WITH them for a longer period of time, but the lack of time and opportunity means I'll probably never get to do that. Will a group of chimps ever accept a human into their group? I read that you study them at a distance, is this true for all studies/zoos, or are there places where the researches/zookeepers live much closer to the animals?

Sorry for the many questions, interesting AMA, and nice pictures! Thanks!

apj07315 karma

Basically all of chimp behavior is learned, even body language and facial expressions. The group of chimps I am currently working with live in a natural fission-fusion social structure with the exception of Kendall. He was taken from his mother at a couple weeks old and was never around chimps. After he was rescued and returned to a troop he did not know how to communicate. The other chimps get very frustrated with him because he doesn't understand the subtle facial expressions, body language and vocalizations. The other males would get aggressive towards him so he could not be with the other males.

Tool use, food gathering, tool making, hunting, foraging techniques are all taught.

Most researchers in the wild are assimilated with their group. Jane Goodall and Cathleen Clark both were accepted into the group and never in danger once their groups got use to them.

ITwitchToo5 karma

Poor Kendall. Does he have any hopes of eventually learning how to be more chimp-like? Could he still learn how to hunt and forage, for example? Does he interact with the other chimps at all? (Do adult chimps teach other new things at all, like Ruby and the gutter?) Would you say he is happy with his current life, or is he a complete outcast?

apj07313 karma

Adults have a hard time learning. Like with humans, learning gets harder as you get older.

In Kendall's environment he can't hunt but he forages fine. He is a lot better with communication but he will never be in with the other males. He is only 13 so it is very sad.

Neversummer772 karma

I've heard that the males can be quite dangerous/aggressive, is there any truth to this? If so, why males and not females?

apj07315 karma

The males can be aggressive, the females can be too. It just depends on the situation. Aggression is usually directed towards hierarchical disputes or territorial disputes. Neighboring chimpanzee groups war over area and resources. "Squads" will patrol the borders to make sure there are no intruders. they sometimes even perform raids on other groups to weaken them.

Joannaisbanana2 karma

This is something I am really interested in and thinking of going back to school to pursue. I am interested in anthropology, psychology and biology. How did you decide to get into this and what is the wage like? ;)

apj07312 karma

I had the opportunity to work with Dr Linda Wolfe and after working with chimps I fell in love with it. It is a very competitive field and a PhD is almost essential. You definitely don't go into the field for the money. You can pay yourself stipends and per diem with grants. As a professor you'd make $70k-$90k. Workiing for a zoo you could make $40k-$60k.

Joannaisbanana2 karma

Thanks for the reply! Very interesting, I'm enjoying this thread and I love your photos

apj07312 karma

Thank you! I love educating about chimps. Education= conservation.

oakstave2 karma

Is the male-dominated chimpanzee culture based totally on the size of the alpha male? Do you see smaller males becoming the dominant alpha through means other than sheer strength/size?

apj073111 karma

A lot of the hierarchy is based on strength and ability to lead but innovation also can. I observed Amy taking a plastic gutter and using it to transport water into the shade. This increased her standing in the group. I also saw a smaller male find a Coke can and he put a couple of small rocks in it. To assert himself he would display by running past higher ranking males and shaking the can furiously. He moved up quite a bit with no true aggression at all.

There are technically 2 hierarchies. The males and the females. The males have their hierarchy and the females have their's but all of the males are above all of the females in the greater pecking order.

TheBrinyDeep2 karma

I observed Amy taking a plastic gutter and using it to transport water into the shade. This increased her standing in the group.

Could you elaborate on that? Did the group see her do it and get excited, or what?

apj07315 karma

I saw her walk up with the gutter and wondered what she was doing. She took it over to the water and purposefully filled. Then she dragged it over to a cool, shady area and used it to drink.

I did get very excited. Here is a photo... Ruby With Gutter

Looking at the photo I was wrong. It is Ruby using the gutter. I apologize.

fiftyacorns2 karma

Are chimpanzees in captavity as bored as they look?

I live in Edinburgh and the zoo has an award winning enclosure, but honestly the chimps just look bored and depressed

apj07312 karma

Chimps are pretty lazy in general and when resting will look bored. The issue with any enclosure is that it can't simulate the vast territory a chimpanzee group holds and protects. There is less foraging to do and not patrolling.

zanics2 karma

Thank you for the fantastic and inspiring AMA. No questions, just appreciation :)

apj07311 karma

Thank you!

Rocco0012 karma

You need to get in touch with Karl Pilkington. He'd love you.

apj07313 karma

I saw him do an interview with Warwick Davis. It was hilarious.

Dumb_Dick_Sandwich2 karma

Chimpanzees don't fling poop nearly as much as I've been led to believe, do they?

apj07315 karma

Monkeys do regularly in the wild as a defensive behavior.

executiverocker2 karma

Have you ever had any connection with Monkey World in Dorset, UK?

apj07311 karma

I have not.

sirsnackpack2 karma

Have you had any experiences with other primates? Orangutauns, gorillas?

Do you visit r/trees?

apj07314 karma

I studied the evolution of bipedalism using orangutans and gibbons. I have never studied gorillas but I got to hold a baby recently before he died last month.

I did not know r/trees existed.

Hunter882 karma

Is there anything about chimpanzee behaviors that make them seem more like people?

apj07313 karma

Chimpanzees do a lot of things like humans, especially when it come to child care and when they are young. I use to love comparing the behaviors of my 2 year old daughter to the things Nori, only 2 months older than my child, would do. Nori would walk around with a blanket on her head and bump into things on purpose which my daughter loved to do. There was also a ton of devious manipulation.



apj07313 karma

There is not a way to do this. It would be unethical regardless.



apj07311 karma

If we don't force them into extinction they will need to adapt and intelligence may be that avenue. It may happen naturally.

idrathernaut2 karma

Have you studied chimps in the wild? If so what are some social (chimp to chimp of course) differences between captive and wild chips?

If not, and additionally, what made you want to study chimps and specifically this topic? Do you plan on studying other primates to see if they exhibit similar behaviors?

Aaaaand lastly what do you think is the cutest or funniest primate and why?

apj07314 karma

I have studied wild chimps. The biggest difference comes from the size of the groups. My current captive group is 16 individuals whereas my wild group had 68. Chimpanzees live in fission-fusion social structures. This basically means that they all sleep together in an area in nests in trees. When it is time to get up they split into smaller groups to go about the daily activities. The larger group allows for more choice and being in the wild means the large group can spread out over a larger area.

I studied orangutans and gibbons but I was looking at the evolution of bipedalism.

Cutest would be a squirrel monkey because just look at them.

Funniest would be infant chimps, Nori, because they do weird hilarious stuff. The photo is of Nori doing a somersault.

AnusOfSpeed1 karma

are you ever frightened being around them?

apj07315 karma

No. Although they can be unpredictable, they are pretty laid back. I have seen some pretty crazy displays though.

ninjanylons1 karma

I was SO excited to see this AMA, I had to join Reddit just to post. Thank you for doing this.

I am curious what has been your most positive and negative experience or knowledge you have gained studying chimps?

apj07311 karma

My only negative experience is having to wake up at 4:30am to drive for 3 hours to do my research. I love what I do. I get to do what I love and work with organizations that help improve the lives of captive chimpanzees. I love working with the infants, now that we have 4 it is very fun!

I've definitely learned much alike and dislike chimpanzees are to humans. Reading about it doesn't do it justice. People think chimpanees are aggressive, violent animals but I have seen obvious altruism, love, sadness, frustrations, gaiety...

lazer_kat1 karma

Seems like every time I visit the chimpanzee enclosure at the zoo, one of the monkeys is masturbating. Now, I guess I get why they do it, but do they engage in this more frequently than other mammals?

apj07317 karma

They aren't monkeys, monkeys have tails and our common ancestor is much farther back with them.

They don't have social inhibitions preventing them from masturbating. Humans don't do it as often because it is a taboo especially in public. Chimps have the urge and then act.

dankzephyr1 karma

have you ever taken any chimps out for a walk, outside of the institution?

do any of the assistants smoke weed with the chimps?

apj07318 karma

No, they are not pets. They live in a natural habitat and I do not handle them in any way.

I don't have assistants in my research and the keepers do not smoke weed with them. That is very unethical.

dankzephyr2 karma

i actually saw that in a documentary called project nim)

one of the grad students would take the chimps out for walks in the woods, and taught them how to smoke weed.

apj07317 karma

We try not to interfere with daily activity in order to get the most accurate representation of behaviors. I use an ethogram to document behaviors of individuals throughout the day. I even have to record temperature and weather in order to collect all variables.

MiyomotosGardener1 karma

Are they becoming more human like in behavior?

apj07312 karma

No, although in captivity they sometime mimic human behavior. In the wild they do not.

monieshot1 karma

What are your thoughts on the theory of chimps being aggressive than bonobos means humans who are more aggressive might be "more evolved"

apj07311 karma

We share a common ancestor with chimps AND bonobos ~6MYA. Chimps and bonobos share a common ancestor ~2MYA. there is no such thing as "more evolved". Everything alive today has been evolving the same amount of time and evolution is shaped by natural pressures. Chimpanzee behavior versus bonobo behavior are just 2 separate adaptation for reproduction and survival.

I have never heard that hypothesis before and I don't know any primatologist or evolutionary biologist that would think that.

Suckassloser1 karma

What do you/would you say to people who dont believe we're descented from apes? Intetested to hear the pov of someone who has studied behaviour in apes and thus could draw parallels etc.

apj07311 karma

Behavior is hardly good evidence for the common ancestry with apes. It reinforces it but we have great fossil evidence and better yet amazing genetic evidence that solidifies it. I tend not to get in arguing matches with people who don't understand evolution and denies it. I'm not going to convince them so there is no point in wasting my time.

JamesRenner1 karma

Have you read Ben Hale's The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore? Thoughts?

apj07312 karma

I have not.

JamesRenner2 karma

A chimp learns to speak, has an affair with a lab tech. As weird as it sounds, it's a good book. Literary, even. So, I guess my question is when do we get some talking apes?

apj07316 karma

Apes don't have the equipment to talk. The larynx is not shaped properly and too high in the throat. The lips and mouth are also not formed properly. Chimpanzees and bonobos can communicate through a lexicon board and orangutans and gorillas have been taught American Sign Language. Sign Language Lexigram

JamesRenner2 karma

How long till some scientist does a little plastic surgery to fix that?

Also, I once wrote a profile on Dr. White, the doctor in Cleveland who transplanted a chimp's head in the 70's. Creepy stuff.

apj07315 karma

That would be unethical. The brain would also not allow them to speak. The Broca's Area isn't as large or advanced as ours.

JamesRenner5 karma

Do any other mammals have a sizeable Broca's Area? I'm asking for my friend. He's a mad scientist.

apj07311 karma

I'm not sure. I've never studied that.

internet-participant1 karma

I read all your responses in character Amy Ferrah Fowler's voice from the Big Bang Theory tv show. You're very dry. its a refeshing change instead of forced comedic replies from unfunny people doing AMAs. Sorry this isnt relevant.

apj07311 karma

I'm very serious when it comes to my work. No one has asked me for funny stories, I have plenty of them.

Simmo51501 karma

Are you interested in primates in pop culture? Do you collect porcelain chimps or love the planet of the apes movies? Are you a nazi when people make the mistake of calling a chimp a monkey?

apj07312 karma

I enjoy the Planet of the Ape movies. I have a ton of chimpanzee shirts from Zazzle.com. I wouldn't say I'm a nazi when it comes to calling apes monkeys but I almost always correct. I don't do it in a disrespectful or humiliating way, I just explain and that's the end of it.

TooMuchProtein1 karma

Who is your favorite chimpanzee of all time?

apj07312 karma


I work with him, he is a 16 year old cool guy.

kidiowa1 karma

Are chimps capable of learning sign language?

apj07311 karma


submuloc_j0 karma

Read this as PROCTOLOGIST. Boy was I confused.

apj07312 karma

Yeah, I could NOT do that job... although someone has to.

hclchicken-2 karma

What is your take on how feminist primatology is as compared to other sciences?

apj07314 karma

I'm not sure I understand your question.