Senator dislikes Agnes Scott study of feces-flinging chimps
By JIM WALLS
An Agnes Scott College researcher has found that chimpanzees that are good at throwing poo have better communications skills than those who aren’t.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, however, thinks taxpayers shouldn’t have footed the bill to find that out. It’s Item 91 in his just-released “Wastebook 2011” compilation of 100 bone-headed ways that the government has spent your money.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society has just published findings of Agnes Scott’s William Hopkins, who’s been looking at poo-slinging to see whether this “very unique tool-use behavior” might correlate with development of language and speech in early humans.
The most accurate throwers, Hopkins concluded, have better communication skills and have more white matter in the Broca’s area, the portion of the brain linked to speech:
These results suggest that chimpanzees that have learned to throw have developed greater cortical connectivity between primary motor cortex and the Broca’s area homologue. It is suggested that during hominin evolution, after the split between the lines leading to chimpanzees and humans, there was intense selection on increased motor skills associated with throwing and that this potentially formed the foundation for left hemisphere specialization associated with language and speech found in modern humans.
Hopkins and his buddies at Emory University’s Yerkes Primate Center got $592,527 from the National Institutes of Health in 2011. Only a portion of that grant paid for the study of the feces-flingers; Coburn, a second-term Republican, did not say how much.
Nevertheless, Coburn ranks the poo study among
the countless unnecessary, duplicative, or just plain stupid projects spread throughout the federal government and paid for with your tax dollars this year that highlight the out-of-control and shortsighted spending excesses in Washington.
I dunno. Seems like a worthy contribution to the wealth of human knowledge, but that’s just me.