Such research could offer important evolutionary insights into the nature of intelligence in primates
Until now, primatologists believed lemurs to be primitive, ancient offshoots of the primate family tree, with far less intelligence than their more sophisticated cousins, monkeys, apes and humans. But at the Duke University Primate Center, with the gentle touch of his nose to a computer screen, the ringtail lemur called Aristides is teaching psychologist Elizabeth Brannon a startling scientific lesson -- that lemurs are, indeed, intelligent creatures.
Brannon is using touch-screens, Plexiglas boxes holding raisins and buckets hiding grapes to establish that ringtails such as Aristides and his mongoose lemur cousins possess a surprising ability to learn sequences of pictures and to discriminate quantities. While Brannons work is still only at a preliminary stage, its initial results lead her to believe that such studies could mark the dawning of a new appreciation of lemur intelligence.
Dennis Meredith | Duke University
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