We may be more like our primate ancestors than we think. A European study, also published in Current Biology, sought to study social and cognitive ageing in a heterogeneous group of monkeys—with fascinating results. Their study of 118 Barbary macaque simians in southern France ranging from the ages of four to 29 (105 in human years) revealed that while monkeys maintained their interest in social information well into old age, they became more selective about how to spend their time and who to spend it with—much like humans.
When the researchers observed the reaction of monkeys to physical (new toys, tubes with food) and social (pictures of other monkeys and interactions with them) stimuli, they found that the younger monkeys were more enthusiastic in their response, while the older ones remained more circumspect, sticking to their familiar circle of friends. “This clearly tells us that we, as humans, are not unique in the way we age socially but that there might be an evolutionary ‘deep’ root in this pattern,” Alexandra Freund, from the University of Zurich, one of the study’s authors, tells The New York Times. The study concludes that non-human primates are valuable models for understanding human ageing.
Photo: iStock Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine March 2017
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