Synopsis by Nathan Southern
PBS's NOVA: Ape Genius begins with a remarkable sight never before glimpsed by the general public and seldom noted by scientific researchers; at a cordoned-off, controlled research locale in Fongoli, Senegal, a female chimp breaks a branch off of a tree; hones it and sharpens it with her teeth, thereby creating a deadly weapon; and promptly uses it to murder a bushbaby cowering in the interior of a hollowed tree. As the program notes, primate-focused zoologists considered this a massive breakthrough for both zoology and science in general. Yet in truth, this represents only the tip of the proverbial iceberg - one of many new insights about apes attained during a period with the world on the cusp of intimate behavioral knowledge of primates. Time and again, related discoveries continually lead researchers to profound conclusions about apes' capacities for 'creative intelligence.' This, in turn, prompts yet another question: if apes possess creative intelligence, what constitutes the key cerebral difference separating primates from homo sapiens? Ape Genius explores this question with a great attention to scientific detail, with visits to the grassy plains of Africa and research laboratories on several continents including Europe, Asia and North America; in the process, it unveils aspects of primate behavior long thought untenable, contrasts differences between the minds of different ape species, and ultimately hones in on the key cerebral differences that separate apes from human beings.
ape, biology, primate, research