Charles Darwin probably didn't see this one coming. According to researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, rhesus monkeys in captivity are learning to appreciate their own sexy reflections. (Sexy in the monkeys' opinions, not ours.)
And it may tell us something about the human condition.
Scientists have apparently been giving mirrors to monkeys for a long time, but -- unlike great apes and super-smart dolphins -- the monkeys never realized they were looking at themselves. Until the researchers in Shanghai tried a new technique: Using a laser pointer to help them recognize the concept of reflection.
The powerful laser would irritate a monkey's face, which the animal would then touch ... just as the monkey in the shiny glass touched its face. Boom. Connection made. (We just hope none of them were named "Caesar.")
"Here, we showed that monkeys can actually learn to acquire this capability by training, suggesting that the monkey brain has the basic 'hardware' but needs appropriate training to acquire the 'software' to achieve self-recognition," explains lead researcher Dr. Neng Gong.
What happened next shouldn't surprise anybody -- not naming names -- whose morning routine includes a bit of weird preening:
Yeah, the monkeys spread wide and checked out their own genitals and butt-holes. Cut 'em some slack, they're just getting to know themselves better. You think you're so much better, you selfie-taking narcissist?
Anyway, this study can possibly help scientists better explain what makes us us.
"Understanding the neural basis of self-awareness and consciousness is the ultimate goal of understanding the human brain, and this has been a very difficult subject for experimental studies," Gong says. "[W]e now have an animal model to study what neural circuit changes ... enable the emergence of self-awareness."
Also, it's fu--ing awesome that monkeys are just as obsessed with their balls as dudes are.