Be honest. When you rolled out of bed this morning, who among you thought they'd be reading about the neuroanotomical correlates of poo-flinging in chimps today? In a study published in the latest issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, psychobiologist Bill Hopkins and his colleagues report that poo-flinging (and any-other-object-flinging) is, in fact, a sign of high-order brain development. The researchers report that chimps who threw more and with greater accuracy had more developed motor cortices and significantly better communication abilities than inaccurate, non-flingers.
But here's the interesting bit: the motor cortex in these chimps also had more connections between it and a region of the brain known as the Broca's area — connectivity the researchers say could have played an important role in the evolution of higher-order brain development in humans. The researchers write:
It is suggested that during hominin evolution, after the split between the lines leading to chimpanzees and humans, there was intense selection on increased motor skills associated with throwing and that this potentially formed the foundation for left hemisphere specialization associated with language and speech found in modern humans.
In other words, when it came to the development of human speech, we may have had to fling before we could fly.