Monkey Do

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Before the pandemic, tourists used to travel by boat to Ko Ped, an island near Pattaya in southern Thailand, also known as Monkey Island, for its beaches, clear water and wily macaques monkeys.

The tourists fed the inhabitants regularly.

But after the coronavirus hit in 2020 and the tourists disappeared, the monkeys had to find alternate sources of nourishment.

They began using stone tools to open oysters, as witnessed by researchers three years after the pandemic, Interesting Engineering reported.

That’s led researchers to wonder if the monkeys are now in their own Stone Age, a defining period in the evolution of humans that occurred two to three million years ago. They also now wonder if monkeys then might evolve as significantly as humans did.

The use of stone tools is not new in the animal kingdom – chimpanzees, capuchins and Burmese long-tailed macaques have also been seen using stones. Still, it’s the first time scientists have noticed a new behavioral pattern emerge in a specific population of primates.

And although the Burmese macaques are close cousins of the Ko Ped monkeys, the researchers do not believe the latter learned the behavior from their Burmese cousins. In an earlier study, they found that the macaques were unable to learn how to crack nuts using stones, neither individually nor in a social setting.

Scientists also believe the 17 monkeys they observed using stone tools acquired the skill individually, because the species forages alone.

However, whether monkeys will continue to use stones to eat when the tourists return is an open question.

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