Apes save tools for future use

Science. 2006 May 19;312(5776):1038-40. doi: 10.1126/science.1125456.


Planning for future needs, not just current ones, is one of the most formidable human cognitive achievements. Whether this skill is a uniquely human adaptation is a controversial issue. In a study we conducted, bonobos and orangutans selected, transported, and saved appropriate tools above baseline levels to use them 1 hour later (experiment 1). Experiment 2 extended these results to a 14-hour delay between collecting and using the tools. Experiment 3 showed that seeing the apparatus during tool selection was not necessary to succeed. These findings suggest that the precursor skills for planning for the future evolved in great apes before 14 million years ago, when all extant great ape species shared a common ancestor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cognition*
  • Mental Processes*
  • Pan paniscus*
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Pongo pygmaeus*