Have You Ever Seen a Monkey Casually Flossing Its Teeth Using Bird Feather?

Khryss | Published 2017-11-17 09:31

Because you're about to.

No monkey business, just being practical and hygienic. A special species, the Nicobar long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis umbrosus), lives on only three islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. One of them is Great Nicobar Island wherein the researchers followed 20 macaques around a coastal village, focusing specifically on their eating habits.

Honnavalli Kumara at the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History in Coimbatore, India, and colleagues noticed how macaques’ preferred thorny, slimy, hairy or mucky foods. Clever as they are, they know that they have to get rid of these inedible coatings. So, they either wash these in puddles or use leaves to wrap and then rub them.

They've even learned how to use these leaves to easily hold certain foods. They also utilized other materials like paper, cloth or plastic to wrap and wipe foods. Amazing! Also, did I mention how much they love coconuts?

They harvest the fruits by twisting these around or cutting it off using their teeth, then de-husk it (if tender enough) while holding it down with their feet and hands. When ripe, they crack its shell by pounding it on a rock or concrete surface.

Not just that, they also beat the bush to disturb their insect prey and catch it. And after having a hearty meal, of course, they had to clean their teeth. And boy, they don't disappoint with their improvised natural tools.

A fine fibre from a range of materials-- a tree needle, a bird feather, a blade of grass, a coconut fibre, a nylon thread and a metal wire--is used as dental floss. Nine of the 20 observed macaques actually flossed.

“Wrapping irritating items, cleaning by rubbing, and flossing teeth with thin fibres have been described in other populations of macaques,” says primatologist Dorothy Fragaszy at the University of Georgia, Athens. “The newest element, to me, is ‘bush-beating’ to flush insect prey.”

“They (Macaques) are the king of generalists… about as adaptable as we are,” says primatologist Michael Gumert at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. “However, the modification of tools does show planning and foresight – something that someone who has ever observed macaques in any detail would never have doubted.”


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