Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by crystal. crystal Wonders, “Is the monkey the smartest and healthiest animal?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, crystal!
Do you like to monkey around? Who doesn't, right? As the term is used today, it means to go with the flow, do whatever you feel like and just spend some time idly without being too serious. When you're monkeying around, you're just playing around.
After a hard week at school or work, everyone could use some time to monkey around. The phrase probably developed from our experience observing monkeys at zoos. They certainly do seem to take a lighthearted approach to life.
In fact, monkey behavior has led to many popular monkey-related phrases we often hear today. Their playful behavior is the basis of the word “monkeyshine," which means a harmless prank or mildly rowdy behavior.
Monkeys' seemingly carefree lives and joyful play have inspired “monkey business" as a description of similar behavior in humans. You may also hear people say something is “more fun than a barrel of monkeys." We're not sure how the monkeys would feel about being put in a barrel, but the image it brings to mind is a bit comical!
Are we giving monkeys—and other primates—a bad rap, though? Do they really just hang out and play all day? Are they just silly creatures? Or do they not get enough credit for how smart they really are?
A little animal research actually reveals that primates, including monkeys, apes, chimpanzees and orangutans, are some of the smartest animals in the world! Surprised? Check out some of these incredible examples of primate intelligence:
- Humans aren't the only creatures smart enough to make and use tools. In the 1960s, researcher Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees and was amazed to discover that they were able to use sticks to help hunt for ants. Since that time, researchers have learned that chimpanzees can use sign language, make and hunt with their own homemade spears and even beat some humans in basic memory tests!
- Koko, a lowland gorilla, learned to use sign language to communicate. She knew more than 1,000 signs and could understand over 2,000 words of spoken English. She even initiated conversations with people! That's one smart gorilla. How smart? A “normal" human IQ is 100. Koko's IQ was between 70 and 95!
- An orangutan named Azy has learned to communicate with symbols that don't relate to the things they represent. We do this with number and letter symbols. Azy's achievement shows that a nonhuman species can assign meaning to otherwise meaningless symbols.