Skip to content

Topical Tuesdays from The Week Junior – Monkey Behaviour

FREE

With this week's resource we're learning about scientists have observed two groups of long-tailed macaque monkeys in Thailand, Southeast Asia, using stone tools differently, even though the islands they live on are less than six miles apart.

The macaques use rocks that they choose carefully to hammer the shells of shellfish, such as oysters, sea snails, crabs and mussels. They crack them open and scoop out the flesh to eat.

On two neighbouring islands off the coast of Thailand, one group of macaques were seen reusing their tools, called hammerstones, whereas the monkeys on the other island threw their stones away after using them once.

The hammerstones used by each group were so different that the researchers were able to work out which group had used the tool just by looking at it.

They think that the difference in the behaviour of each group is an example of culture, something that's typically a human trait.

The different patterns of behaviour between the two groups of monkeys suggests that different traditions can develop in different groups of macaques, even though they live in similar sorts of environments.

The researchers hope that this work will be helpful for scientists studying any early humans and the way they used stone tools.

This PDF resource includes this article, as well as accompanying activity ideas:

  • Debate, if we could communicate with animals, whether we should? Or would that just lead to humans exploiting them even more?
  • Imagine you are a long-tailed macaque who has just discovered how to use stones to get seafood out of shells. Write an advertisement that you would use to persuade your fellow macaques to use stones too
  • Write a short funny sketch in the form of a playscript in which one macaque is trying to get his friend to use stones to crack open shells but the friend doesn’t like the idea of using this new ‘technology’
  • Research another example of animals learning a new behaviour, especially if it shows them adapting to the human world.

To find out more about The Week Junior and to download its free resources, please go to schools.theweekjunior.co.uk.