Lemurs' group size predicts social intelligence

Primates that live with many others know not to steal food when someone is watching

4:43pm, June 26, 2013

Ring-tailed lemurs like those pictured were less likely to steal food with a human watching than were lemurs that live in smaller groups.

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Never turn your back on a lemur — especially if it’s a member of a big gang.

Lemur species that live in large groups can tell when to steal food from a competitor in a lab experiment, researchers report June 26 in PLOS ONE. The finding supports the idea that brainpower in primates evolved to fit their complex social lives. Because the sneakier lemurs don't have bigger brains than less sneaky ones living in smaller groups, researchers suggest that social smarts don’t always depend on brain size.

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