How do baby monkeys learn to use tools? Apparently through lessons from mom, according to new findings that suggest education is a very ancient trait in the primate lineage. Long-tailed macaques near an old Buddhist shrine in Lopburi, Thailand, often pull hair from female tourists for use as dental floss. When female monkeys see their young watching them, they exaggerate their flossing. Primatologists at Kyoto University and their colleagues note that such overemphasis is much like what human mothers do when teaching infants, dubbed “motionese” by behavior scientists (after “motherese,” or baby talk).
This article was originally published with the title "Monkey Education" in SA Mind 20, 4, 7 (July 2009)