Carl Zimmer reports on last week’s study showing rhesus macaques apparently passing the “Gallup test” for mirror self-recognition. I was talking about this in class Thursday, and Zimmer gives some of the background that other reports have omitted:
Its a surprising result because people have tried to find evidence of self-recognition in monkeys before. Most scientists failed. The Harvard primatologist Marc Hauser claimed in 1995 that the cotton-top tamarin could pass the mirror test, but that paper was one of several that Harvard now claims were tainted by Hausers misconduct. Populin and his colleagues came across their first clues of self-recognition by accident. They had implanted electrodes in the skulls of rhesus monkeys for a different study. They keep mirrors in the monkey cages just to stimulate the animals, and they noticed that the monkeys started spending a lot of time looking at themselves in the mirrors after surgery.
Interesting reponses from Lori Marino and Frans de Waal, and a good comment thread.