By Kristi Harrison 木沐 选注
3. Birds Are Grammar Nazis
Spend longer than a half second on the Internet and you’ll encounter someone so hung up on correct grammar usage that you suspect he’s got sentence diagrams where his ribs should be. And if you haven’t, watch this: “Hoke? Your my best friend.” Let’s see how many people flip their lids.
And for those of you who’d rather gouge out your own eyes than use or read bad grammar, hey, we get it. After all, what’s the point of language if we ignore the rules? And wasn’t it the invention of language that propelled humanity into civilization in the first place?
Well, hold your butts, kids, because some animals are just as concerned about good grammar as we are.
Bengal finches not only have rules of syntax when it comes to songs, but they also get mighty pissy when other finches break them.
Researchers at Kyoto University recorded the tweets, chirps and chi-chi-chu-wee-reeeees of a group of finches, then played the songs back to a different group. After a while, the scientists pulled a fast one by taking the same songs and jumbling them up—forming new “sentences,” if you will. In most cases, the finches didn’t seem to care. But one version of the jumbled song made the finches go bananas.
They started screeching angrily—the kind of call usually reserved for intruding enemy finches. The scientists tried playing the same sound sample again with another group, and they got pissed, too—virtually every finch that heard it, in fact. The scientists had accidentally created the finch song version of a your/you’re mistake.
4. Chimps Rely on Third-Party Mediators to Resolve Disputes
If you’re anything like us, sitting between two grownass adults who were so angry that they required two lawyers and a neutral third-party arbitrator to communicate with each other was the stuff childhood (and puppet therapy) was made of.
It’s a pretty brilliant system: Two people who would rather chug a gallon of peanut oil than have a conversation just call in a professional to do the talking for them. You might even say it’s one of the pinnacles of human civilization.
Except, oh wait. Chimps have totally got the market on third-party mediators covered.
Chimpanzees have figured out that when the feces hits the fan, man chimps need to stay the hell away from each other. That’s when a very specific mediator walks into the picture: an older female.
Imagine two male chimpanzees are duking it out over who ate the last head lice or who pooted on Nuk-Nuk’s favorite tree or whatever. Anyway, after the brawl, each male will sit and wait, presumably with his arms crossed and toes tapping, for the other to come over to reconcile. If no one makes the first move, a female chimp will make it for them.
Here’s how: The female will approach one of the males and start grooming him. You know, picking out dirt and bugs and gray hairs and whatnot in order to help him calm down. Then she’ll walk over to the other male, making sure Fighter Male #1 follows. With Muhammad Ali on one side and Joe Frazier on the other, the female lets them groom her, together, because grooming is calming as shit.
Then, she walks away, her job done. She intervened, and resolved their monkey conflict. The two males are left sitting together as friends, with neither losing face. We’re 95 percent sure this is exactly how the Cold War ended.
5. Monkeys Understand Money
As soon as we’re old enough to toddle toward the Hubba Bubba on the lowest shelf at the checkout aisle, we get the concept of money. Money is what gets you food, toys and those lame ass OshKosh B’Gosh overalls your mom makes you wear. Money is what puts some people on a throne and others in a sewage ditch. Surely, this one part of human civilization is ours and ours alone.
Nope. Monkeys have also been proven able to comprehend, use and exploit money.
First of all, it turns out that it’s not all that hard to teach monkeys to use a currency. In one experiment, it was just a matter of giving capuchin monkeys a bunch of silver discs, then demonstrating that they would get a treat when they turned one disc in to the researchers. After just a few months, they picked up the idea that the discs had inherent value (chimpanzees figured it out even faster in another experiment, and were even taught to recognize different denominations of “currency”).
And to be clear, exchanging the silver discs for treats wasn’t just some mindless “perform an action to get a prize” trick—the capuchin monkeys were found to respond logically to price fluctuations, buying less if the price rose and vice versa.
And then, chaos ensued. One monkey, called Felix, quickly ran to the chamber where the “coins” were kept, threw all them into the communal cage and then scurried back. What the scientists had witnessed was a bank heist. When the researchers went in to try and get the coins back, the monkeys put up a fight, only caving in once the scientists gave them treats.