Scientists have discovered something interesting about chimpanzees: they spy on each other.

And I don’t just mean they listen in on each other’s gossip or keep track of the comings and goings of their neighbors, I mean they carry out recon missions the way national intelligence agencies do.

This is research out of the University of Cambridge in the UK.

They studied several groups of chimps in the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire.

For three years, these scientists watched what these primates did, in particular where they went and where they didn’t go.

The groups each had their own territories, and there was an in-between area where they would occasionally encounter each other and fight.

The scientists noticed that small subgroups of chimps would carry out a kind of patrol along the borders of their group’s territory.

These patrol chimps made a lot of visits to hilly border areas, where they would often get very quiet.

The researchers found that when chimps made these hilltop patrols, they were more likely to go near a rival group’s territory or disputed land than when they patrolled more low-lying areas.

The researchers have an idea about why.

Just like with human espionage, chimp espionage is about figuring out what the other side is doing.

The chimps were listening for sounds that chimps in the other group were making, and, by extension, figuring out where they were.

The further away those rival chimps were, the more likely the patrol chimps were to walk through the other group’s territory, possibly in the hopes of making it their territory.

And… the study found that, in most cases, the chimps carried out this spying to prevent fighting between the two sides.

So chimps know knowledge is power.

Whether you’re traveling to see relatives this holiday week, or wishing you were, or glad you’re staying put, you might want to pay a visit to the Sign Post Forest.

It’s a spot in Watson Lake, Yukon where a homesick American servicemember put up a sign in 1942 to remind him of his hometown in Illinois.

Now there are close to 100,000 signs pointing toward spots all over the world.

They’ve got nails and hammers so you can put up a sign for your hometown.

Chimpanzees use hilltops to conduct reconnaissance on rival groups (University of Cambridge)

Take a trip around the world in the Sign Post Forest (Travel Yukon)  

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Photo by Riyaad Minty via Flickr/Creative Commons