Rocky Rebellion Confirms Chimps Ability to Plan

Much ado about rocks, chimps, and being human.

Santino is my hero. He was kept imprisoned in a cage, and his response was to throw rocks at his obnoxious captors. He'd scavenge the prison yard at night for whatever loose stones he could find, and he'd cache them for the morning. When there weren't enough rocks, he'd pound the concrete retaining wall to knock loose chips of stone. Then when the jailers would show up, zip, zip, zip, a rain of stones on them. You have to respect that kind of defiance and planning.

Santino is a tough guy. Santino is also a chimpanzee.

Doesn't that make you wonder a bit? Chimpanzees fight back at being caged, and they do so with forethought and resourcefulness. I imagine our ancestors felt the same way at every obstacle to their life, from marauding leopards to bad weather, and they stoked a bit of rage to fight back (which was probably ineffective in dealing with a thunderstorm, requiring slightly cleverer strategies). It's a start; it's a way of using your brain to resist, and I think it's a very human approach to a problem.

PZ Myers is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He runs the science blog, Pharyngula.