A particularly cunning seven-year-old chimp named Ayumu has bested university students at a game of memory. He and two other young chimps recalled the placement of numbers flashed onto a computer screen faster and more accurately than humans. “It’s a very simple fact: chimpanzees are better than us — at this task,” says Tetsuro Matsuzawa, a primatologist at Kyoto University in Japan who led the study.
The work doesn’t mean that chimps are ‘smarter’ than humans, but rather they seem to be better at memorizing a snapshot view of their surroundings — whether that be numbers on a screen or ripe figs dangling from a tree. Humans may have lost this capacity in exchange for gaining the brainpower to understand language and complex symbols, says Matsuzawa.