-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The death of a baby chimp
caused responses in a mother chimpanzee not typically seen directed
toward live infants, but it's unclear whether she was actually
mourning, researchers say.
The new report may help improve understanding of how
chimpanzees, one of humans' closest primate relatives, respond to
and learn about death, the study authors noted.
In the study, the researchers observed and made videos of a
mother chimpanzee whose 16-month-old infant just died. After
carrying the dead infant's body for a day, the mother placed the
body on the ground in a clearing and repeatedly approached the body
and held her fingers against the infant's face and neck for a
number of seconds.
The mother remained near the body for nearly an hour, watching
it from a distance, then carried it to a group of chimpanzees and
watched as they investigated it. The next day, the mother did not
carry the body.
The research, conducted by a team at the Max Planck Institute
for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, was released online in
advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the
American Journal of Primatology.
"The videos are extremely valuable, because they force one to stop and think about what might be happening in the minds of other primates. Whether a viewer ultimately decides that the chimpanzee is mourning, or simply curious about the corpse, is not nearly as important as people taking a moment to consider the possibilities," researcher Katherine Cronin said in an institute news release.
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