Thursday, December 8, 2011

Runs in the family

Again and again on this blog, we see that scientists and other alleged experts are the worst offenders when it comes to enabling bad animal behavior. They're constantly making excuses: A seal that drowned a dog was "curious," a wombat violently attacked a man because it was suffering from mange, a thieving baboon was "corrupted" by tourists. We've even seen the claim - in two different cases!- that dogs who ate their owners' toes were doing them a favor.

But even after all that, I was astounded by a recent headline:

Researchers find poop-throwing by chimps is a sign of intelligence

According to the folks at, a recent paper by three neuroscientists proves that if our distant ancestors hadn't thrown feces, we'd never have evolved language.

The argument is based on a brain imaging study. The researchers found that the more a chimp throws, the more its brain is developed in an area that's crucial to human speech.

The scientists also found that the chimps who were the best throwers were the best at communicating with other chimps. What's more, their skill wasn't due to being the big tough guys:
which the researchers suggest means that throwing didn’t develop as a means of hunting, but as a form of communication within groups, i.e. throwing stuff at someone else became a form of self expression, which is clearly evident to anyone who has ever been targeted by a chimp locked up in a zoo.

The claim that chimps throw stuff because they're smart is bad enough. But the argument that the pinnacle of our own species' distinctiveness is based on the lowest possible sort of prank is downright offensive. We're supposed to believe that language is just a sophisticated way of throwing shit? I've read a lot of nonsense by scientists while researching this blog, but I never -

Hmm, wait a minute. That makes a heckuva lot of sense, doesn't it?

Unsurprising zoo sign by Flickr user thepatrick.


  1. I found your blog thru Jenny the Bloggess. I love it! Animals: endlessly fascinating and hilarious. I put your book on my wishlist too. I also linked your blog to mine. I'm so glad I found you!

  2. Thanks, welcome, and tell all your friends!


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