Chimpanzees like to have more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and are specially motivated by challenging puzzles that challenge their brains according to according to a new study which followed a family of six chimpanzees at the Zoological Society of London's Whipsnade Zoo. Three of the chimps, Elvis, Phil and Grant are half-brothers, while the rest included another male and two females.
For the study, published today (Feb. 23) in the American Journal of Primatology, zookeepers gave the chimps a homemade puzzle made of plumbing pipes. Inside the network of pipes were either Brazil nuts or two red dice. The chimps had to figure out where to poke sticks into holes in the pipes to get the items to change directions and fall into an exit chamber.
"We noticed that the chimps were keen to complete the puzzle regardless of whether or not they received a food reward," study researcher Fay Clark of the Zoological Society of London said in a statement. "This strongly suggests they get similar feelings of satisfaction to humans who often complete brain games for a feel-good reward."
The brainteaser was part of the zoo's voluntary enrichment activities for the chimps, which also include treats hidden in boxes and do-it-yourself materials so the chimpanzees can build their own beds every night.
Evidence that chimps also possess strong imaginations during play have been discovered in Uganda, where wild young females have been observed carrying sticks around like dolls and even taking them to bed with them, while a 2011 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B reported that chimpanzees are able to figure out which characters they control in a video game, exhibiting a grasp of the concept of their own agency.