Animals give insight into human evolution

By Peter Kent

Most animals rely on trial and error for the young to learn how to survive on their own. Now, Lisa Rapaport, a Clemson behavioral ecologist, has identified animal behavior that gives insight into human evolution.

She found that African pied babbler birds use behavior called “cooperative breeding” and “provisioning” to help their young learn how to find food. The parent birds cooperate with other adult birds to teach the young how to find food. During the learning process, they share their food with the young. She also observed provisioning and teaching behavior in the golden lion tamarin monkeys in Brazil.

“When we find other species in which young are provisioned and given instruction about food, it helps us to better understand ourselves,” said Rapaport. “Now we are beginning to appreciate that our cooperative child-rearing system may have played a crucial role, allowing our ancestors the luxury of time to learn.”

For information: Lisa Rapaport, 864-380-2432,