What happens when you put monkeys on welfare? They hang out on street corners, use drugs, and get involved in petty crime, right?
When Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) began receiving food handouts more than 50 years ago—freeing them from the daily grind of foraging for food—they invented "cultural activities" to fill their newly acquired leisure time, researchers say.
Stone-play, hot-tubbing in volcanic springs, and potato and wheat washings have all become mainstay behaviors within various troops of macaques around Japan
And every once in a while, a monkey of genius emerges:
The great innovator within the Koshima troop was a one-and-a-half year old infant female named Imo. In 1953, Imo was the first to begin washing the sweet potatoes. She passed the behavior to her mother and it slowly began to spread. A decade later, potato washing had become a fixed behavior in the troop. Most newborns picked up the skill quickly. By 1962, about three quarters of Koshima monkeys over two years old washed their food.
Imo's second feat of genius was to develop a method for sorting wheat from sand. Imo discovered that rather than eat the wheat handouts grain by grain, a mixture of wheat and sand could be dropped in water allowing the wheat to float and the sand to sink. Within several years many of the younger monkeys practiced this behavior.
After that, Imo developed a round thing she called a 'wheel', domesticated the tanuki, and started smelting tin and copper into weapons. By the time the humans realized what was happening, it was too late.
This reminds me of the idea that a leisure class is necessary for human progress.
蚕糸 == saishi == silk thread
|Bottom radical is 'insect' (虫). Henshall suggests taking the top radical as a variant of 'heaven' (天), and as a mnemonic: 'Silkworm is a heavenly insect.'|