July 10, 2008

Monkeys Practice World's Oldest Profession

More evidence that other primates might not be so different from humans: after researchers taught seven capuchin monkeys to use currency, they soon paid for sex.

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Luis Fernandez said...
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Luis Fernandez said...

I found the NYT article pretty interesting, but (of course) I'd like to know more about the underlying data which isn't mentioned in the article. They mentioned the exchange of money for sex (reinforced by the exchange of money by the female for a grape), but what I'd like to know is, suppose that Cornelius had a grape (instead of a coin)... how often (in a natural habitat) would Zira "protestute herself" in order to get the grape? That is, to what extent is the "prostitution" a function of a monetary system as opposed to the natural behavior of a female trying to use sex to get payment (in terms of food) from a male?

What I would find much more interesting would be the prolonged effects of money on a "primate society" with respect to the levels of violence in that society. Suppose Zaius and Cornellius were in the same society, and Zaius was significantly stronger than Cornelius. Would we see an increase of "bullying" of Zaius over Cornellius with the introduction of money? I think that it would be one thing to see a dominant monkey taking another's grapes, but I think it might be a much different discovery if this "bullying" were to increase if we spoke in terms of coins instead of grapes.

Very interest stuff :)