Camila Bione

ScienceShot: Capuchins' Screwy Solution to a Termite Problem

Staff Writer

Anyone who has tried to eat ice cream with a biodegradable spoon can sympathize with the blonde capuchin monkey: It's hard to eat when your utensils keep bending or breaking. So, tired of finding new tableware every time they wanted termites for dinner, these critically endangered Brazilian monkeys figured out a clever solution that hasn't been observed before in any species. Balanced on two feet and their prehensile tails, capuchins tap a nest of termites with one hand to dislodge the bugs and then pierce the nest with a stick, screwing it in so that the stick doesn't break. Then they lick the delicious termites off the end. When human researchers aped the capuchins' methods, they found that the combination of banging the nest and rotating the stick retrieved significantly more termites. Their paper, published today in Biology Letters, doesn't mention whether the researchers thought they tasted any better this way.

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Posted in Plants & Animals