The findings, published in the journal Nature, mirror the contrasts in the learning abilities of human children, say the scientists behind the study.
Professor Elizabeth Lonsdorf, of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, said it suggested that young girls’ superiority over boys in the classroom may date back to the last common ancestor of chimps and humans, about 6 million years ago.
Female youngsters enjoyed more success than males and mastered the task quicker. They picked up the skill at 30 months old whereas most of the males were twice as old.
The difference was down to the greater attentiveness on the females’ part as they spent more time closely watching their mother. The male chimps had shorter attention spans and spent more time wrestling with each other and swinging in trees.