Thursday, August 13, 2009

Who's worse, scientists or animals?



We used to be able to think that we were better than the animals for all kinds of reasons, but nowadays, scientists are always screwing up our illusions of superiority. It's bad enough we're not the only ones who use tools, or the only ones who are smart enough to deceive. Now we find out that we're not the only ones who can use tools to deceive.

No, monkeys haven't yet learned how to get breast implants or toupees. But scientists have recently discovered that orangutans in Borneo use leaves, held up to their mouths, to make their calls sound deeper. Because deeper calls normally come from a larger animals, the ruse means that predators may decide that they had better stay away from that BIG orangutan.

The strategy works because, like on the internet, interactions in the rainforest often aren't face to face. As primatologist Madeleine Hardus told the BBC, "Because it is very rare and difficult to get a full view of an orangutan in its rainforest habitat, this could be very advantageous, since a potential predator will have to rely more on sounds than sight in these conditions."

Still, there's some comfort in knowing that although orangutans have learned to lie about their appearance to someone they haven't met in the flesh, we're still the only animal who can use fake photos of ourselves on Internet dating sites... we hope.

Orang using a leaf as a tool to drink water by Flickr user doug88888

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