Chimpanzees Want to Cook Their Food
But they lack fire, and the right 'social skills'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2015 4:44 AM CDT
Two chimps tussle for food at Chimp Haven in Keithville, La.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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(Newser) – Chimps: the frustrated chefs of the animal kingdom? Humans are the only creatures to cook their food, but our closest relatives have the mental ability to cook and are more than happy to do so when given a chance, according to a new study. Scientists confirmed that chimps prefer cooked food to raw food and discovered that when they had access to a "cooking device"—really a container in which researchers would replace raw sweet-potato slices with cooked ones—they were patient enough to bring the food to the device and wait for it to "cook" instead of just gobbling the raw food, Scientific American reports. The study was inspired by the theory that cooking played an important role in human evolution, the New York Times notes.

The finding suggests that humans aren't alone in possessing the "causal reasoning, self-control, and anticipatory planning" required to cook, the researchers write in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. But chimps don't cook in the wild—why not? Their failure to master fire is an obvious reason, but the lead researcher tells the BBC that another reason is that they lack the "social skills" for cooking, which include trusting others not to steal your food if you hang onto it for a second longer than absolutely necessary. "Trust is another component for cooking to become a practice in a social group," he says. (If chimps did hold dinner parties, researchers have found a fruit that would help get the conversation going.)