The 11-year-old chimpanzee in no stranger to the spotlight. Back in 2007 he was featured on MSNBC’s Are you smarter than a chimp? segment where scientists had two young adults compete against Ayumu and another chimp in a series of short-term memory tests. Guess who won? Yup, the chimps.
So how does he do it exactly? Scientists aren’t entirely sure but there are a couple theories. The first is something called “eidetic imagery” which, in poor latent terms, means Ayumu is able to commit to memory a complete picture of intricate pattern or scene.
The second theory is called subatizing which means you can look at a small number of items and automatically know how many of each are present. For example, if you glimpse at the stars, you can see that there are two red stars. Or three blue stars. Or what have you. And chimps retain this information better than humans, especially Ayumu, because as humans evolved and acquired new skills-like speech-we lost others such as super awesome visual memorization.