<figcaption>Monkeys react to a throw Credit: Courtesy of David Glynn</figcaption>
Monkeys react to a throw Credit: Courtesy of David Glynn

For a couple of months last summer, neuroscientist Justin Wood filmed himself aiming rocks at monkeys. Technically, he was only pretending to hit the monkeys. He just wanted to see how they'd react, in a bid to pin down the neurologic underpinnings of a uniquely human trait: throwing.

Early every morning, under a sky streaked with the colors of dawn, the Harvard graduate student in cognitive neuroscience climbed aboard a small boat from the Puerto Rican city of Punta Santiago, and took a 10-minute trip to nearby Cayo Santiago. The island is also known as Monkey Island, in honor of the 1,000 or so macaques that reside among its scattered palm trees and gentle terrain. They are the offspring of monkeys first imported for research purposes to the island from India in the 1940s.

Wood's project was a somewhat lonely...

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