Primates Floss, Too!

macaque monkey
Adorable Macaque Monkeys Photo by Tambako the Jaguar

While we like to think we’re the most intelligent and fore-thinking species on the planet, primates are actually pretty savvy, too. There have been many studies which show the intelligence of various monkeys who display aptitudes exceeding our expectations for them. For example, Koko the Gorilla is well-known for understanding and utilizing  American Sign Language. This August, the University of Wisconsin- Madison released an article on Koko’s progress with the formation of sounds related to human speech. This casts doubts on previous beliefs that primates were restricted to fixed sounds. In edition to Koko, there have been several accounts of primates recognizing pregnancy in humans, as pregnant women approach their cages in zoos and last year  Animal Planet released a video of an ape lighting a fire with a match and roasting a marshmallow. Over the past few years we’ve even noticed some hygienic intelligence in these animals. Apparently, some primates floss, too!

Flossing Primates

On October 12th, the Daily Mail and the Plymouth Herald released an adorable article detailing the hygienic consciousness of one hamadryas baboon at the Paignton zoo in Devon, England. According to the Daily Mail article, Georgia the baboon was given an old broom to play with, but she wasn’t interested in cleaning up anything but her teeth. After examining the broom, Georgia reportedly extracted a bristle from the broom, and pulling it taut, then began flossing her teeth. Neil Bemment, the zoo’s curator says of the event, “Georgia is definitely flossing here as she is passing it between her teeth either to flick food out or because she likes the sensation”. However, with other supporting evidence the former may be more likely as other primates have been caught flossing of their own accord and passing that habit on to their infants.

According to a 2009 edition of National Geographic, a troop of macaque monkeys, who live near a Buddhist shrine in Thailand, have been known to pull out a strand or two of a willing visitor’s hair in order to utilize it as floss. This particular group of macaques were studied to find out how these monkeys learned such an ability. Researchers focused on 7 mothering monkeys who had an infant. After scattering strands of hair from a wig about the monkeys’ den, they found the mother monkeys sitting in front of their offspring, exaggeratedly flossing their own teeth. In other instances, the monkeys have been seen using twigs or coconut fibers to floss.

In yet even another account, one man’s pet Capuchin monkey is caught on tape flossing his teeth with actual floss. Whether his owner taught him the action or the monkey figured it out for himself, is still unclear.

No matter these primates’ reasoning, flossing is an important practice to keep teeth healthy. So lets do as the primates do, and floss those teeth!

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
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