Chimps recognise when others ‘not in know’

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Chimpanzees recognise when others in their group are not “in the know” about a source of danger, research has revealed.

Scientists found wild chimps were more likely to sound a “watch out” alarm call about the presence of a snake when newcomers were around. The discovery challenges the idea that only humans can spot ignorance in others and take steps to keep them informed.

Scientists placed model snakes in the path of wild Ugandan chimpanzees and watched reactions.

When individual chimps detected a snake, they sounded an “alert hoo” to warn others. As other group members arrived on the scene, those in the know repeated the alarm call to ensure new arrivals knew a snake was about.

“Chimpanzees seem to take another’s knowledge state into account,” said Dr Catherine Crockford, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. “They produce a warning call to inform audience members of a danger that they do not know about.”