Those little capuchin monkeys might be really smart

There are some pretty smart creatures living in coastal Costa Rica, and they are not humans.

Some Oxford University researchers were surprised to find that Brazilian capuchins use stone tools to crack nuts. The researchers even went so far as to excavate around nut trees to find stone tools that showed that monkeys may have been doing this for hundreds of years.

Th Brazilian monkeys are the same species that live on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts here. And expats know they are pretty smart.

The Oxford scientists should not have been too surprised because the scientific literature shows that the same type of monkey uses stone tools to crack open crabs and other shellfish. Plus eating cashew nuts requires smarts because the nut is encased in a highly acidic covering, which is why the monkeys crack it open.

Yale University researchers have even taught monkeys there to engage in small-stakes gambling with bits of food as the prize. Elsewhere, monkeys have been trained as

A capuchin uses a stone stool to crack a cashew nut in northeast Brazil.

A capuchin uses a stone stool to crack a cashew nut in northeast Brazil.

service animals to assist the disabled, although animal rights activists frown on this practice.

Monkeys are not the closest relative to humans. That honor belongs to the chimpanzees.

The ancestors of today’s monkeys in the Americas must have been pretty hardy. Scientists estimate that somehow they crossed the Atlantic 35 to 40 million years ago. No one really has a clue how they did this. That was the beginnings of what was called New World monkeys that include the little capuchins.

This latest revelation resulted in an academic paper that involved researchers from Oxford and the University of São Paulo in Brazil. They observed groups of modern capuchins at Serra da Capivara National Park in northeast Brazil, and combined this with archaeological data from the same site.

Researchers said they watched wild capuchins use stones as hand-held hammers and anvils to pound open hard foods such as seeds and cashew nuts, with young monkeys learning from older ones how to do the same, according to a summary from the university.

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