Almost half the differences in chimpanzees' intelligence is due to their genetic heritage, according to a study published in Current Biology magazine and which contributes to understanding the cognitive abilities of primates, including humans.

The research was headed by Jennifer Shaeffer and William Hopkins of the Neuroscience Institute of Georgia State University and Jami Russell of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta.

The authors recalled that the role played by genes in human IQ has been a matter of debate for ages.

"As is the case in humans, genes matter when it comes to cognitive abilities in chimpanzees. It doesn't mean that they are the only factor determining cognitive abilities, but they cannot be ignored," Hopkins said.

Another indication of genes' importance is that chimps raised by humans and those raised by their mothers gave similar test results.

The conclusion is that genes have provided some individuals with advantages, perhaps in terms of skills in finding food or greater social skills that provide greater opportunities for feeding and mating.

"What specific genes underlie the observed individual differences in cognition is not clear, but pursuing this question may lead to candidate genes that changed in human evolution and allowed for the emergence of some human-specific specializations in cognition," Hopkins said. EFE