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Intelligence proven to be inherited in chimpanzees

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Chimpanzee intelligence has a genetic and inherited basis much like intelligence in humans. William Hopkins of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University has proven that chimpanzee intelligence is in part genetic through rigorous testing of chimpanzees that are resident in the Yerkes facility and other locations. The research was reported in the July 10, 2014, edition of the journal Current Biology.

The researchers examined the intelligence of 99 chimpanzees that ranged in age from five years to 54 years. Some of the chimpanzees were related to each other and some were not. The testing included tests that are measures of human intelligence that had been modified to accommodate chimpanzees limited range of intellect as compared to humans. The tests were simple game type tests that have been used to evaluate children’s intelligence.

The study revealed that at least 50 percent of chimpanzee intelligence is directly attributable to genetics and genetic inheritance. The study also found that there was no difference in chimpanzee intelligence between chimpanzees raised by their birth mothers and chimpanzees raised by human foster parents. Like humans, chimpanzee intelligence was found to be 50 percent a result of environment and exposure to learning situations. The scientists note that chimpanzee intelligence is not limited by structural bounds like schools the way human intelligence is perceived to be limited.

This is the first time that any non-human primate has been shown to have a genetic factor and an environmental factor in the development of intelligence. The result indicates that there may be a common ancestor of man and chimpanzees in which the genetic component of intelligence was first developed and manifested. The common ancestor may have existed five million years ago. The researchers intend to look for intelligence genes that are common in both man and chimpanzees. Such genes could indicate the path of cortical reorganization that led to human intellect.

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