Being clever is an advantage in life. But for ring-tailed lemurs, it’s also advantageous to be seen to be clever.
New research has shown that lemurs that worked out how to extract food hidden in apparatus received social favours from others that had watched them do it.
“I was quite impressed that the frequently observed lemurs received more affiliative behaviours, such as grooming, without adjusting their own social behaviour,” says Ipek Kulahci of Ireland’s University College Cork.
“In most primate species, grooming tends to be mutual; it relies on reciprocity between the groomer and the individual being groomed,” she adds. “So it’s a pretty striking pattern that the frequently observed lemurs received lots of grooming without providing more grooming to others.”
In which case, what’s in it for the observers? The biologists found that, by initiating social contact, they are more likely to learn the task for themselves.
Ring-tailed lemurs recognise intelligence, and show appreciation of it, in others.