photo: Courtney Bolton/Creative Commons


The fact that great apes are really much smarter than humans have historically generally believed is thankfully gaining so wider acceptance. Genetically we acknowledge the amazingly close similarities of our nearest cousin species, but there's more to it than that.

The folks at Great Ape Trust in Iowa posted a number of really interesting examples on their Facebook page that quite amazingly illustrate this.

First, via According to comparative developmental psychologist Kim Bard from the University of Portsmouth the notion that humans are more psychologically advanced that great apes is fatally flawed.

The claim that joint attention is a uniquely human trait has been developed by studying Western human infants compared to great ape adults. Results of my own such "niche environment" studies have shown apes can be more or less clever than Western human infants depending on their rearing conditions. What none of these or other studies have measured, though, is the comparative differences when you take out all the confounding variables of type of parenting and culture. That is what my new research aims to do

Joint attention is the term describing how an infant engages with another person about an object or event via pointing, changing gaze back and forth to get your attention.

Then there's Kanzi the 'talking' bonobo

At 29 years old, and as much of a celebrity as an ape can be for much of his life, Kanzi understands hundreds of words and uses perhaps 30-40 on a daily basis. As for the quotes around 'talking': Kanzi responds and expresses this language knowledge by pressing keys printed with lexigrams which triggers an audio voice speaking the word desired.

Kanzi just made an appearance on Oprah's show, but since that video isn't embeddable these YouTube clips will have to illustrate: