One thing we've learned during our extensive research here at Cracked is that animals are more and more amazing the more you learn about them. But there's a point on the graph where they're a little too amazing, and then it crosses into "unsettling."
So we're not sure how to feel about the fact that...
You'd think "Chimpanzee Researcher" would be the most hilarious job in the world, what with the subjects always putting on people clothes and pretending to smoke pipes. But during a 10-year study of a community of chimps in Uganda, scientists found something terrifying.
More terrifying than the Congo chimp's alliance with the Clown People.
Every once in a while groups of strong chimp males would form up and head north, toward the border between their territory and the land of the neighboring tribe. They'd move through the jungle silently and in a single-file line, with practically no eating, socializing, or masturbating allowed. They'd stealthily scavenge for signs of individuals from the other tribe, such as feces, abandoned termite-fishing tools, etc. When they found a member of the northern tribe off on his own, then they'd gang up on his ass and murder him, goddamn Sam Fisher-style.
Then they did it again. And again. It wasn't just random animal-on-animal savagery; when the scientists studied the pattern of the attacks, they found the chimps were at war.
You expect this kind of bullshit from apes.
During the decade they watched the area, scientists saw 18 of these attacks, mostly all along the northern border, wiping out more than 13 rival chimps from a tribe of 100 (you don't get kill ratios like than in most human wars). And each time, they moved the border north. They were fighting over land, and doing it in a very organized way.
This isn't some freak occurrence, either. In Tanzania, researchers witnessed a chilling civil war when one tribe of chimps got angry and split off from a larger tribe. Over the next five years, the group of heretics destroyed the original tribe with a series of covert attacks.
Previously it was thought that invasive human behavior was behind chimpanzee tribal violence, but now scientists are relieved to find out that chimps are just naturally prone to lethal, Splinter Cell-like military operations.
And while we're on primates...
If you've ever watched monkeys at the zoo, if they weren't eating, sleeping or flinging shit at you, they were probably grooming one another. What you almost certainly did not know is that what you're seeing is an active, complex economic system in action.
"Spare some tick-plucking?"
Grooming (that is, picking lice out of the fur) is their currency. Females will trade grooming for sex, for instance. Specifically, researchers saw females giving it up for eight minutes of grooming (OK, so these aren't exactly Charlie Sheen-level whores here). And what's more, the system obeys the law of supply and demand -- when there were fewer females around, the price went up to 16 minutes of grooming for a session of monkey boning.
Grooming isn't exchanged for only sex, either. Female monkeys groom other females in exchange for favors (for instance, in order to hold their infants for a limited amount of time). When scientists trained a velvet monkey to open crates containing apples for the other monkeys, soon she was the most well-groomed monkey in the group (you can actually look at a community of monkeys and see which ones are "rich" by how nice their fur looks). Then they trained another monkey to do the same thing. Sure enough, the amount of grooming the first monkey got dropped in half. We're surprised they don't trade grooming in a freaking monkey stock market.
In other experiments, they've found that monkeys will actually go on strike if they are not given the same "wages" as their peers. When Monkey A and Monkey B both did the same amount of work, but with unequal payoff, the wronged monkey would become irate and quit. It's not that they were unhappy with their reward and decided it wasn't worth it -- as long as both monkeys were getting the same food for the same task, they were fine with it.
But when researchers increased the reward only for the first monkey, the second would walk away. The monkey wanted the market rate for his services.
"YOU CALL THIS A GODDAMN TIP?"
So, maybe you can get your head around monkeys running an efficient economy; after all, they're just like furry little people, right? But fish? Fish can't even think hard enough to notice it's abnormal for worms to have huge metal hooks in them.
Well, cleaner fish -- the tiny fish you see nibbling on the sides of bigger fish -- are able to survive despite doing what would appear to be supremely annoying. They're chewing off parasites from the scales or skin of the bigger fish. So they're actually performing a service.
Service? Hell, they're running a business.
"A happy ending costs extra."
For instance, cleaner fish gather in groups that other fish recognize as cleaning stations. Seriously, big fish will swim by and park there and let the cleaners do their job, like a freaking car wash. The cleaners, meanwhile have a customer service code, and they enforce it. The worst thing an employee can do is accidentally bite a customer (rather than carefully nibbling off the parasites) and when that happens, the other cleaners will go after and punish the bad worker. It's one of the only incidents scientists have ever seen of a species punishing members in an organized way.
And then there's their marketing technique. Customer fish can recognize the "cleaning stations" (as opposed to random gatherings of little fish) because the cleaners have a distinctive "uniform" consisting of blues and yellows. Those colors stand out against the coral reef, the same way a red and yellow McDonalds' billboard catches your eye on the interstate.
Over time, fish with those colors attracted more customers and natural selection made that their uniform. Today, you can take a regular fish, paint it blue and yellow and toss it in a tank, and the other fish will swim up to it, expecting to be cleaned.
All that water, and they still can't be arsed to clean themselves.
That's some brand awareness right there.