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Planning among the Primates: humans aren't the only ones who make future plans--and share them with others.

We have long assumed that animals have no awareness or understanding of the future, or that their awareness is unsophisticated. Their future-directed actions may simply be responses to present needs, such as thirst. But new research from the University of Zurich suggests that orangutans are in fact capable of making future plans.

In previous studies, captive orangutans have demonstrated their ability to remember the past and anticipate the future. It was unclear, however, whether this awareness was found naturally in their wild counterparts. To find out, the University of Zurich anthropologists spent five years following male Sumatran orangutans through the jungles of Indonesia. They discovered that the animals actually plan their travels up to a day in advance and communicate their routes to other orangutans in the area.

Apes maintain relationships with other apes, but they tend to spend most of their time roaming through jungles on their own. The researchers found that male orangutans give off long calls in the direction in which they plan to travel, so they can let others know where they are going.

The calls have a dual effect: If a female hears a male's call, she knows where he will be so she can meet up with him later. If another male orangutan hears a dominant male's call, he knows to temporarily avoid that area and stay out of the alpha ape's way.

In most cases, a long call indicates where an orangutan plans to travel over the course of the next few hours. Sometimes, the animal will call before bedding down for the night to communicate where he plans on traveling the next evening. If he changes his route, he will emit a new call to communicate his updated plans.

"Our study makes it clear that wild orangutans do not simply live in the here and now, but can imagine a future and even announce their plans. In this sense, they have become a bit more like us," concludes Carel van Schaik, study co-author and director of the University of Zurich's Anthropological Institute and Museum.

Source: University of Zurich, www.uzh.ch. The study, "Wild Orangutan Males Plan and Communicate Their Travel Direction One Day in Advance" by Carel P. van Schaik, Laura Damerius, and Karin Isler, was published September 11, 2013, in PLOS ONE. www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0074896.

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Title Annotation:Behavior / FUTURING
Author:Hetrick, Keturah
Publication:The Futurist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2014
Words:393
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