Friday, October 08, 2004


Chimps Shown Using Not Just a Tool but a "Tool Kit"

Anyone who has tried to replace a punctured tire or fix a leaky faucet knows the importance of having the right tool for the job. Chimpanzees, it turns out, are also very particular about their tool choice, especially when it comes to digging into termite mounds to get a tasty snack.

Using infrared, motion-triggered video cameras, researchers have documented how chimpanzees in the Goualougo Triangle—a region within the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo—use a variety of tools to extract termites from their nests. The "tool kits" are among the most complex ever observed in wild chimp populations

See Chimp Video Clips (Real One Player Required) • Video 1: Adult Female Punctures Termite Nest With StickVideo 2: Young Male Punctures Nest, Then "Fishes"Video 3: Adult Female Punctures Aboveground Nest, Then "Fishes"

...The study reinforces the notion that tool use began long before humans walked the planet. Humans, chimps, and orangutans all used wood and bone tools, suggesting that tool use originated with a common ancestor more than 12 million years ago, Fuentes said.
The researchers are expanding their camera array to more chimp communities to observe differences in tool use.

There is tremendous pressure to document these chimpanzee cultures quickly. The animals are endangered by a burgeoning trade in their meat and outbreaks of viruses such as Ebola. The forests in which they reside are threatened by logging interests.

"Humans are extraordinary tool users. Examining these behaviors in our closest living relatives provides insights into the material culture and social traditions of our species," Sanz said. "As these forests vanish so do our opportunities to document the unique cultures that reside within them. We are quickly losing these apes that we hardly know."