Origin of human cooperation may be ancient

WARWICK, England, March 19 (UPI) -- The origins of human teamwork may have ancient roots, European scientists say after discovering chimpanzees can also demonstrate the capability.

Researchers in Britain and Germany said in a series of trials, chimpanzees demonstrated the ability to coordinate their actions to achieve a common goal.


Pairs of chimpanzees given tools to retrieve grapes out of a box learned to solve the problem cooperatively, even swapping tools to pull the food out, they researchers said.

"Many animal species cooperate to achieve mutually beneficial goals like defending their territories or hunting prey," Alicia Melis of the University of Warwick in Britain said.

"However, the level of intentional coordination underlying these group actions is often unclear, and success could be due to independent but simultaneous actions towards the same goal.

"This study provides the first evidence that one of our closest primate relatives, the chimpanzees, not only intentionally coordinate actions with each other but that they even understand the necessity to help a partner performing her role in order to achieve the common goal," Melis said in a Warwick release Tuesday.

The researchers said they have been trying to find out if there are evolutionary roots to humans' ability to cooperate and coordinate actions.


"These are skills shared by both chimpanzees and humans, so such skills may have been present in their common ancestor before humans evolved their own complex forms of collaboration," Melis said.

The study by Warwick researchers and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has been reported in the journal Biology Letters.

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