Chimps could cook their food, given the chance

Study found that chimps have the requisite patience and foresight required to cook

Payton Guion
Wednesday 03 June 2015 18:39 BST
(Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Don’t expect Easy Bake Ovens popping up in zoos any time soon, but a new study done by researchers at Harvard and Yale has found that chimpanzees have the cognitive ability to cook.

The scientists were able to determine that chimps have the patience and foresight required for cooking, even if they were not the ones actually doing the cooking.

Chimps have already shown a preference for cooked foods over raw foods, but the study found they were also willing to wait for cooked foods, something that many humans – including this reporter – often struggle to do.

Scientists did not give the chimps access to real cooking devices, one reason being that the species has not figured out how to use fire. Instead, researchers created a cooking simulation that used two plastic bowls that fit closely together with pre-cooked food in the bottom bowl.

When a chimp put a raw piece of sweet potato in the top tub, the researched would “cook” the piece by shaking the bowls and would remove the top bowl to reveal the cooked sweet potato.

Once the chimps realised they could get cooked food by placing the raw food into the “oven”, they would resist eating raw food. The chimps still would “cook” the food even if they had to walk across the cage to do so and continued to do so with different types of food.

This experiment was launched from the idea that the mastery of fire and learning to cook is what propelled human evolution from earlier primates.

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