The Loh Down On Science

Tarzan ... or Jane?

Chimps are remarkably savvy at determining the gender of other chimps, using just their faces. But only with chimps they know.

Dude looks like a lady! At least to a chimp.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

In primate societies, identifying the gender, kinship, and status of other animals is critical to survival. But how savvy are chimps at making those distinctions?

To find out, primatologists at Atlanta's Emory University showed a bunch of chimps photos of other chimps', umm. . . posteriors, including male and female genitalia.

They tested how well the chimps matched those photos with photos of male or female chimp faces.

Result? Chimps could correctly select gender, matching bum to face--but only in chimps they knew.

With unfamiliar faces, they had a harder time.

The results imply that chimps identify their buddies through "whole-body" recognition. They know their friends forwards and backwards, so to speak.

The findings also suggest chimps rely on firsthand experience for gender cues. Behavior and family status say "dude" or "dame"--the face, not so much. That's why chimps had trouble guessing the sex of unknown animals.

Which can make for some very awkward first monkey dates! Where's the banana?!? Can I say that? Yes I can.


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