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The Monkey Stone Age

Monkeys are not always considered the smartest animals, but a secluded group of capuchin monkeys in Brazil are proving this stereotype to be very wrong. This group of monkeys have been using tools to crack open nuts and break food for approximately 3000 years. This discovery of non-human tools is not the only one; chimpanzees have also been known to use tools. But not to worry — these monkeys will not be creating weapons or challenging humans as the most powerful species anytime soon. They are still in a very primitive stage of tool use and are very far away from being anything like humans.

Because of these discoveries regarding the use of tools in monkey communities, some have stated that monkeys are in their own stone age. This conclusion is a little exaggerated, since many animals use tools. Sea otters use stones to crack open sea urchins, octopi use coconuts as armor, and crows have been known to use many types of tools to gain access to food. There are many other species that utilize their surroundings to access food, so why do people think that these monkeys and apes are so special?

Well, these monkeys and chimpanzees have the most potential to grow and build upon their tool use. A very specific physical attribute of these species is the opposable thumb that gives them a huge advantage of allowing them to fasten and grip objects. This may offer a greater potential for monkeys and apes to use tools more often and at greater variety in the future. However, I think it is still far too soon to say they are beginning their own stone age. They are yet at lengths from human capabilities present during our stone age: starting fires, creating art, and forming complex languages. Don’t give the monkeys too much credit!


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