The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Simulated termite fishing in captive bonobos: an analysis of tool construction and socioecological factors influencing tool use acquisition and behavior


Anthropology, University of Oregon

Thursday 2:45-3:00, Galleria South Add to calendar

While there is a great deal of data on chimpanzee tool use from both the field and captivity, bonobo tool data comes primarily from captive experiments and indirect evidence of termite fishing from the field. Captive tool use studies have mostly been conducted under non-naturalistic conditions. This study investigates termite fishing in 16 naive captive bonobos by simulating naturalistic conditions using an artificial termite mound fashioned after those that occur in the wild. We found that bonobos were able to solve the task and constructed fishing wands in a manner similar to what has been described in chimpanzees, including detachment of raw material, side branch removal, leaf stripping, and bark peeling. We also found a similar female bias in tool behavior. Females attempted to fish (F = 7.6707, p<0.05) and were successful more quickly than males (F = 10.2792, p<0.05). Females fished with greater frequency (G = 318.1310, p<0.001), had longer bouts, and had significantly more neighbors at the mound than did males (F = 20.7260, p<0.05). 100% of individuals classed as high-rank succeeded, where 60.00% of mid-rank and 33.33% of low-rank individuals were successful. We also found that number of neighbors at the mound was positively correlated with rank (r = 0.64835, p<0.05). Female bonobos can hold high rank positions and show greater cohesion, cooperation, and control of food sources than do their chimpanzee counterparts. The pattern of learning and use described in this study may reflect socioecological conditions unique to this species of great ape.

Research was supported by the Office of the Vice President of Research, University of Oregon.

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