Marmosets can learn from movies, who knew?

Well, this is bananas. First tortoises were using iPads, now scientists say that marmosets can learn from movies, and they’re not, er, monkeying around. (Sorry.)

As New Scientist reports, researchers from the University of Vienna filmed a marmoset opening a plastic device to retrieve a treat in a lab setting. Then they took the video (in a protective box) to marmosets in the wild, holding a special screening in the Atlantic Forest near Aldeia in Brazil (one of the few places Secret Cinema hasn’t tried).

They found that marmosets who watched the video were more likely to try to open a similar device, usually using the same technique as shown on screen. Once the first monkey had watched the movie and copied it, it’s hard to say whether the monkeys after that were learning from the screen or each other, but the scientists’ observations led them to believe it was a mixture of both. (You too can watch the marmosets watching marmosets, if you want to get really meta/see something cute.)

Tina Gunhold and her team now want to expand their research to find out whether the marmosets are more interested in watching a dominant or subordinate member of a group. ‘Most studies focus on how information is transmitted between monkeys, but few have looked at how traditions are formed,’ she told New Scientist.

The researchers had initially been concerned that the marmosets might see their on-screen counterpart as a threat, because they’re usually so territorial. But instead, they seemed fascinated by the video and excited about the technology, making them one of the early adopters of the animal kingdom.

Image via Tambako The Jaguar’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley