You don't have to be a teenager to want to fit in at the school lunchroom. Some wild animals seem to follow similar monkey-see, monkey-do behavior to follow the crowd and find the best eats, new research finds.
South African monkeys switched foods purely because of peer pressure and humpback whales off the coast of New England copied a new way to round up a fish meal, according to two studies in Thursday's journal Science.
"We're not as unique as we would like to think," said monkey study lead author Erica van de Waal, of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. "We can find many of the roots of our behaviors in animals."
For her study, 109 vervet monkeys living in groups in the wild were given a choice of food tinted pink or blue by the researchers. One color for each group was tainted with aloe to give it a harmless yucky flavor. After a few meals, the food was no longer tainted, but the monkeys still wouldn't eat the color they figured was bad.
But that changed when some of them tried to fit in with a new group of monkeys. Blue-food eaters instantly switch when they moved to an area full of pink-food eaters, even though they shunned pink food before. Pink eaters also changed when they moved to a blue-food area.