What tools!

They’re an opposable thumb away from RULING THE WORLD!


Jorden C. Broke this story open…



  1. The best video I have seen today…

  2. Wow. That is remarkable. Gives new meaning to the phrase “will work for food.”

  3. Both educational and enjoyable to watch.

  4. FuzzyAntler says:

    please tell me the sniffing and clanking sounds weren’t added during editing.

  5. I say give the monkeys a chance, they can’t do a worst job of running the planet than mankind is doing.

  6. There is no scenario that cannot be improved by David Attenborough and monkeys. 😉

  7. 260Oakley says:

    What goes better with nuts than a nice capuchino? Don’t knock it ’til you dry it.

  8. earlybird1 says:

    A…MAZING. Monkeys and apes never cease to impress me. When you see them looking at something, you can really see the wheels turning in those brains of theirs. There’s a lot going on behind those eyes.

  9. Wow. There’s something uncanny about it… all that innovation, learning ripeness by sound, how to place the nuts just right so they won’t shoot off when they’re hit… and yet the monkeys learned to do it all without needing their eyesight, so they can still be alert to predators. Like humans, and yet not, beyond the obvious things. Very cool.

  10. temperance says:

    all those things that scientists say separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom just get fewer and fewer.

  11. Wow, animals are endlessly fascinating.

    My cat can’t use tools but she does make for a reliable alarm clock. Though she does need a snooze button.

  12. That’s it. Somebody’s getting a nutcracker for Christmas.

  13. Did anyone else think of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when they saw a video of smart monkeys with background music by Johann Strauss?

  14. All impressive, but my brain didn’t snap until the ambush.

    Most primates have opposable thumbs – and some other critters (or something similar to a thumb). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumb#Other_animals_with_opposable_thumbs

    Ya learn something every day…

  15. I come for the cute aminals.
    I stay for 260Oakley’s puns.

  16. @mary: Immediately, and that was certainly no accident. 😉

  17. Dear humankind:
    You just got handed the pink slip. By capuchins.

  18. earlybird1 says:

    ElleJay: EXACTLY! 🙂

  19. i can’t even pick out a decent melon at the market.

  20. I’m with Doggabone: the ambush was what got to me. 🙂

    “Hey! Lets stand on this steep cliff and drop big rocks on the jaguars!”

  21. Teeny Gozer says:

    It’s not just that they have an opposable thumb… all the work and planning and the fact that opening the palm nuts takes several steps means that they have a concept of the future, a concept of time that goes beyond “now”.

    We have met the enemy, and they are US!

  22. @Teeny Gozer: Reminds me of something I read a little while ago, about patience, tamarin monkeys, and marmosets. The study found that tamarins are willing to travel farther (but not wait) for a reward, marmosets are willing to wait but not travel. Or at least so far as I understood it. This is the most layman friendly version of the story I could find: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051025080057.htm

  23. earlybird1 says:

    SORRY! I meant to spell it “ElleJae.” My deepest apologies!!!

  24. W. O. W.

  25. Mind. Blown. If those monkeys could talk, their society would probably be as advanced as ours is.

  26. (Busy picking little bugs off my head and eating them) 😛

  27. victoreia says:

    @Mocha: how do we know they aren’t as advanced as us? They’re probably smart enough to have figured out letting the humans know is a really bad idea!

  28. Wow. That was amazingly cool!! Very neat watching them use the rocks to crack open the nuts, but even better watching them push the rocks off to defend themselves.

  29. Was I the only one wondering if a poor monkey has ever dropped one of those rocks on his/her foot, as some bumbling human would be apt to do, sooner or later?

  30. What is this from? I don’t think it’s from Planet Earth, unless I missed watching a disc… multiple times.

    Primate and monkey behaviour is always amazing to watch… reminds me of my physical anthropology classes all over again. The funny thing is, this behaviour does NOT count as “Tool Use”… because the “tool” is a natural, unmodified object. Personally, I’d argue the point, but still…

    The thing that gets me here is that these guys LEARNED this behaviour, and passed it on to their young. In other words, if you took this group of monkeys and put them somewhere there weren’t nuts for a few generations, and then put them back there, they wouldn’t pick up the behaviour again. What you’re seeing here is CULTURE. Freaking awesome.

  31. Ha, I loved the little guys hitting the nuts in the wrong place, causing them to go flying off. Reminds me of ME trying to do something handy.

  32. The folks over at Relevant Magazine have been predicting the Chimpocalypse for years…

  33. CrazyNewt-it’s from a BBC special called Clever Monkeys. I saw this clip and ordered the DVD. It is amazing!

  34. gravyboat says:

    Those little faces are just too precious!

  35. I have to agree with Gigi. I could live with monkey overlords.

  36. I heart David Attenborough.

  37. David Attenborough is a treasure. These monkeys are amazing.

  38. Reminds me of my experience cracking macadamias as a child. Put the nut in a suitable hollow on the rock, whack it with a hammer, then go searching for the nut which departed unscathed at about twice the speed of sound…

  39. Mary–

    Umm–I think the POINT of the Blue Danube music is to remind us of the movie “2001.” But frankly, I’d rather watch the monkeys without the music.

  40. kibblenibble says:

    When the monkeys shot the nuts off the rock and went racing after them, you could hear them chattering away. I don’t speak monkey, but I’m pretty sure some of the chatter was swear words.

  41. Crazy Newt,

    I would count it as tool use. They have modified the anvil stone. The craters on that stone were created by the monkeys and then used to better position the nuts. Additionally, they selected and moved the hammer stones great distances, so they modified where the stone is in the environment.

  42. AlbertaGirl says:

    I work with humans who don’t problem solve this well. Seriously.

  43. Hmmph, if they were intelligent they would go to the supermarket and buy them, save all that hard work.
    Beautifully edited video cut to the rythm of the music, I was waiting for the bone throw in the air and the jump cut to the space rocket.

  44. I’m a lazy human bastard. All I kept thinking was too much work for too little reward.

  45. Spysgirl: I’d be inclined to agree with you, but technically, it doesn’t count. The grooves in the stone were not intentionally created, but were a side effect (or so the argument goes). As for the movement of the hammer, it also doesn’t count – if it did, you could also say Hermit crabs are tool-users (because they move their shell long distances), or those octopi that hide in coconut shells.

    Technical definition here requires the animal to take an object, examine it, and modify it for a different task. A monkey using a stick to break open an ant nest doesn’t count. A raven that twists a paper clip to open a lock does.

    Mostly, the argument is used to show that tool use in humankind is fairly recent… I think homo sapiens is the only species to have proof of tool use from our very origins (I could be wrong on that).

    Still, an amazing program, and I’m going to have to dig it up! Monkeys = awesome.

  46. And… I just checked out Wikipedia, and it turns out I’m going by an old definition. So, um, guess this does count as tool use (because the stones were maintained for future use).

    When I took anth, cases like this were explicitly NOT tool use, so I guess things change in five years, eh? 😉

    So, for the record, Crazy Newt is crazy. Also, monkeys are still awesome.

  47. platedlizard says:

    Nah, we’re safe until they learn the secret of fire. Then we’re in trouble.

  48. platedlizard says:

    Crazy Newt, I think some of your information is out of date, Homo erectus was using modified stone tools (scrapers etc) and fire long before we were around.

  49. Wow! Were *we* (i.e. humans) that cute a few million years ago? Probably not, hehe. 😉

  50. I remember watching gulls drop clams onto the sand trying to open clams. It would work but took many tries. Somehow a few had learned to fly a few yards further and drop the clams on the hard parking lot surface – one shot was all it took.

  51. resriechan says:

    1) @ Theresa: BWA ha ha!!!! (etc.)

    2) Ennybody for a M. Python/ HG reference re. birds, flying & carrying coconuts? (“An African swallow or a European swallow?”)

  52. Barbarella a.k.a. The Mad Cat Lady:

    We aren’t that cute now! 😉

  53. two realy cool things about that clip. every once in a while they stop and look in the direction of the camera and they have this indignant look as if they’re thinking “will you stupid paparatzi go away I’m just cracking my nuts here nothing to see” Of course the really cool thing is the making the leap from tossing a rock at a nut to tossing a rock at a lepard. Smart Monkey

  54. Omg that is fantastic!!! What clever little dudes, I loved the end. They were completely annoyed tossing those rocks down at that jaguar, haha 😀

  55. What a heartwarming clip 🙂 I saw it on telly too David Attenborough inspired my interest in the world around us from a child and he is amazing.
    It is funny that the monkeys actually get frustrated when their much prized ripe nut shoots off it shows they have emotion?
    I have seen a crow drop corn onto a road and then collect it again once ran over by a car and so crushed.
    We take our animal kingdom so much for granted dont we?

  56. Color me seriously impressed and entertained. I could watch that stuff all day! Life is so full of magic (and cool stuff) if you only open your eyes to it.

    260Oakley FTW once again. Brava!

  57. Andi from NC says:

    My favorite part is watching “monkey school” – the little students are so intrigued!! Precious!

  58. I think these monkeys are significantly more intelligent than several people I work with. Heck–they are probably smarter than me!

  59. Capuchins are impressive. I do feel a little bad for the jaguar at the end tho…slinking off thinking, “Man, I have got to find some less intelligent prey to stalk…”

  60. Those must be some delicious nuts to inspire such devotion and hard work.

  61. I couldn’t breath the entire video – it was just so DAMN CUTE! And furthermore, there were quite a few human beings that popped up in my head that I could firmly say do not match the intelligence of those little critters. I love how jumpy they are – always looking around and fiddling w/ their hands. I don’t know how much more I can stand of it.

  62. Erm, CrazyNewt, I finished my degree many years ago and this always counted as tools…
    And I did learn that tools came waaaaaaaay before the Homo Sapiens.
    Things didn’t change in 5 years, sorry to say.

  63. monkeylina says:

    On their way to civilisation… Is it just me or are they well suited to the logistics industry? Time management, forward planning, transportation, materials processing…

  64. Nothing like a little David Attenborough to educate your late morning with. Especially when it’s with monkeys!

  65. I love the tapping to find the ripe ones, and then the drying in the sun, and the repeated tapping/clacking. Very smart little dudes! And then the kerpow! (twice the speed of sound) nut that got hit on the wrong angle and the chattering monkey running after it. Whole thing was awesome, who knew capuchins were that smart?

    Hey crazy newt, they did debate that question of “does this count as tool usage” over the octopus transporting those half coco nut shells a while back, remember? Some said yes, and ain’t it awesome, and others said no, it didn’t count, by the older definition. Exactly because they only transported them, they didn’t modify them for a novel use.

    What about otters using rocks to break open abalone? I thought that was tool usage, maybe it’s not?

  66. “tap-tap-tap”


  67. All a nature video needs is David Attenborough to narrate.
    Amazing how those little minds put 1 + 1 together.. in that if you hit the nut
    hard enough it will open and that if they wait several days it will be taste better.

  68. Oh dear. David Attenborough talking about clever animals also makes me think of “Jurassic Park.” Wrong Attenborough, though, that was Richard Attenborough, his brother. David’s voice reminds me of Richard’s, though.

    But yeah, monkeys + Strauss, good point, albeit the waltz is Johann Strauss, and the “Also sprach Zarathustra” (music in 2001) is Richard Strauss.

    Argh, too many Attenboroughs, too many Strausses!

    In conclusion: aww, clever monkeys.

  69. What DID count as tool modification and usage was chimpanzees selecting twigs, stripping them of their bark and extraneous twiglets, and using them to winkle termites out of their mounds. When Jane Goodall documented this years ago, she said (paraphrasing), “We’ve always said that what sets humans apart from lower animals was our ability to make and use tools. Now, we’ll have to re-think what we mean by ‘human’, ‘lower animals’ and ‘tools’.”

    On a lighter note, LOVED the “Screw you, jaguar!” rock-throwing party at the end!

  70. so that’s what they do when they’re not writing code for blogsites…

  71. That Is amazing

  72. Poor Jaguar.

  73. Peanut's Mama says:


  74. That is quite awesome.

    No wonder Capuchins are so trainable, they’re probably one of the smartest monkey species.

    I wonder, if you taught them to use a computer, could they become more intelligent? Hmmm……..that might just make them addicted to the Internet, specifically C.O.

  75. resriechan says:

    @ Jeanne…while I, instead, LMAO (not LITERALLY, unfort…) at your verb “to winkle” !!!

    Prob NOT associated with the verb “to twinkle”????

  76. victoreia says:

    finally got to watch it; my first thought was “just another shopping trip to the market”…..

    Still waiting for the monolith to show up, though. 😉

  77. Wonderful! And I kept whispering “Watch out for your toes monkey!!!” Made me nervous with the rocks pounding down LOL

  78. MC Squared says:

    I couldn’t find raccoon on the list of animals with opposable thumbs, but I’m pretty sure they have them, even more dexterous than monkeys.

  79. Poor monkeys work so hard to get to their food. They need a helping human hand:)

  80. To clarify a few of my points…

    a) I was explained by my physical anth instructor that an animal using an unmodified part of its environment is NOT tool use. So, octopi in coconut shells, hermit crabs, and so forth are not tool users. This is still, to the best of my knowledge, fact. I still see this is a border case, by the definition I was taught.

    b) I realize several hominid species predate homo sapiens and used tools. What I was saying is that I believe we are the only species that from the very beginning of our term used and created tools… that very early Homo Erectus may not have. But then, that was around five years ago that I was in this class, so I’m probably misremembering. And a species before Erectus used fire… but it has not been categorically proven that they were able to create fire. Again, this is all based on a hazy physical anth class from, um, 2003? 2004? So I’m a bit hazy on the details. 🙂

  81. @PlatedLizard They do

  82. purple_phoenix says:

    Being a zookeeper myself, I can only say HA HA! I told you we were all screwed! They really are going to take over the world!

  83. A-mazing! I was in awe the entire video–half believing that humans hand trained the monkeys to do those things. I’m still gathering my jaw up from off the floor over the jaguar ambush.

    My favorite part was at 3:15, though, when the monkey gives the camera the stink eye. It’s like he was daring the camera man to try and take his nut.

  84. As much as I loved the monkeys when I saw them knocking the rocks over at the jaguar, I was worried about him, too! Brilliant little monkeys…as for the tool use thing, I’m pretty sure what constitutes tool use is no longer the defining element but more the amount of pre-meditated thought. For instance, it’s becoming less important how much the animal alters the tool and more about how, when and why they want the tool. When you think about it, it takes less effort for a chimp to grab a twig, shove it in an ant hill, see it doesn’t fit and then take the leaves off then it does for a capuchin to harvest and dry the nut, travel to the river bed to select an appropriate rock (showing an understanding of size, shape and weight) and recognizing that for the rock to affect the nut it has to be on an equally hard surface (the stone anvils). I’m not knocking chimps (they do similar things), I’m just comparing levels of effort and thought. Fascinating stuff!

  85. Geez Louise – glad my vocabulary added to the general mirth around here (huff!):

    – “twiglets”, i.e., the little bits that jam in the termite holes – gotta lose ’em!
    – “winkle” [verb] – NOT a misspelling of “twinkle”. Check “winkle pickers” on Wikipedia. It’s all about getting something out of a tight space.

  86. all those things that scientists say separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom just get fewer and fewer.

    Actually, it is mostly just people who say that.

    Mostly, scientists have been down with considering humans to be apes with very fine hair, bipedal locomotion, complex speech and really big braines for quite a long time.

  87. David's Truth says:

    Proof that Kaffirs are indeed related to primates

  88. Give that monkey a blackberry!

  89. BeckyMonster says:

    i think the people talking about tools vs. not tools are splitting hairs, whether they were simply taught that, or if they truly believe it. That argument is created by humans who STILL can’t imagine that anything else on this planet is as smart or wonderful as them.

    The only thing separating us from the animals is the human’s uncanny ability to be a malicious jerk.

  90. Wow. That was amazing!

  91. temperance says:

    well, nator, perhaps things have changed for the better since i was in college; the prevailing wisdom (from what i gathered in the classroom) among men and women of science, back then, seemed to be that humans were far superior to animals in any number of ways and therefore it was more than okay to continue with the various physical and emotional experimenting that was going on with said animals. needless to say, i switch from psych to english pretty quickly. i welcome the knowledge that this line of thinking has evolved and become obsolete since then.

  92. Yay! I love it. What clever little cuties. My favorite part is when they nuts go shooting off to the side *poing*!

  93. I think their society is as advanced as it needs to be for them.I think they haven’t taken over the world because even if they did know what it meant, they wouldn’t want to. I mean, who would? They don’t need to be like us but we could learn some lessons from them. They do talk in monkey talk, to each other.
    And I’ve never actually seen 2001 but I liked the waltz music because it was mirroring the action: triumphant adn elegant!!

  94. This. Is. AWESOME.

    I’d try for a monkey butler, but they’d probably get bored with such a mindless job.

  95. kokobutterbuns says:

    Amazing!!! It’s almost like looking into a time capsule from the dawn of mankind. I love these smart little monkeys!!

  96. That is the most awesome thing I’ve seen and brought some well needed laughter from what has been an otherwise abismal new year. Thanks!

  97. Gloria Blackwell says:

    Take that jaguar! Ha! These little guys are smarter and more industrious than some people I know. lol! Love it!

  98. Niki is right. For a while now, RELEVANT folks have been talking about the Chimpocalypse. You can hear them through their archive of podcasts here: http://bit.ly/63mAPu