The Mental Life of Monkeys and Apes eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 160 pages of information about The Mental Life of Monkeys and Apes.
fingers with her teeth.  But the latter was too quick for her, and withdrawing her hands, like a flash seized in her teeth the middle finger of Gertie’s left hand.  She then bit it severely and with all her might, at the same time pulling and twisting violently, often placing the entire weight of her body on the finger.  Her sharp teeth cut to the bone, and it was impossible for the larger and stronger monkey to tear away.  For several seconds this continued, then Gertie succeeded in escaping, whereupon she at once retreated to the opposite end of her shelf and proceeded to attend to her injured finger.  She cried, wrung her hands, and from time to time placed the finger in her mouth as though in an effort to relieve the pain.  By this time Jimmie’s attention had been attracted by the disturbance and he rushed up to the shelf, and facing Gertie, watched her intently for a few seconds.  The look of puzzled concern on his face was most amusing.  Apparently he felt dimly that something in which he should have intelligent interest was going on, but was unable wholly to understand the situation.  After watching Gertie for a time and trying to discover what she was doing, which was rendered difficult by her tendency to turn away from him, in order to shield her injured finger, he rushed over to the wire partition and made strenuous efforts to seize Tiny with his hands and teeth.  But although she continued close to the partition and often crowded against it with face and hands flattened on the wires, he was not able to get hold of her, and after a few vain attempts he returned to his mate, and again with evident solicitousness and the most troubled expression, watched her wringing her hands and chewing or sucking at her injured finger.  Shortly he again returned to the partition and renewed his attempts to seize the young monkey.  Thus he went back and forth from one place of interest to the other several times, but being unable to achieve anything at either point, he finally gave up and returned to his breakfast on the floor of the cage.

I report this incident fully because the behavior of Jimmie was in marked contrast with the usual behavior of the monkeys.  Selfishness seemed everywhere dominant, while clear indications of sympathetic emotions were rare indeed.  The above is undoubtedly the best evidence of anything altruistic that I obtained.

It is possible that Tiny’s action was retaliatory, but although it is practically certain that either Gertie or Jimmie inflicted the wound on her finger, I of course cannot be sure that the spirit of revenge stirred her to punish Gertie so severely.  Jimmie’s part in the whole affair is, however, perfectly intelligible from our human point of view, and there seems no reason to doubt that he did experience something like a feeling of sympathy with his mate, coupled with a feeling of resentment or anger against Tiny.



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The Mental Life of Monkeys and Apes from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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