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Friday, December 25, 2009

Chimps cut up their food

There have been several examples of tool use in non-human primates.  

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have been known to use twigs to extract termites and other insects from mounds and logs.  These twigs must be carefully modified to be effective collection tools.

Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) have been seen using sticks to help them wade across swamps. 

Chimps have been observed fashioning spears by breaking off branches, trimming them of extras twigs and leaves and bark, and even sharpening the ends with their teeth.  These spears are thrust into crevices to extract game.   

Now, chimps have been observed chopping up food using hammers and anvils. The food in question is the fruit of the Treculia africana tree. Although not covered with a hard shell, the fruits themselves are hard and fibrous, and too large for the chimps to bite into.  Chimps have managed to get around this problem by using stone or wooden cleavers to chop the fruits into manageable portions.  This behavior is distinct from the process of smashing nuts open.

This ability, like all primate tool use, is clearly cultural as it is not shared by chimps in neighboring areas.

Tool Use from The Jane Goodall Institute on Vimeo.