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

Insect prey characteristics affecting regional variation in chimpanzee tool use


1Department of Anthropology, Washington University, 2Lester Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo, 3Congo Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, 4Department of Animal Health,, Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, 5Projet Grands Singes, Cameroon

Saturday 9:15-9:30, Galleria South Add to calendar

Much has been claimed about regional variations in chimpanzee tool use, with little attention to the ecological circumstances which may have shaped such differences. To address this issue, we conducted a systematic comparison of chimpanzee tool use and termite prey between the Goualougo Triangle in the Republicof Congoand the La Belgique research site in southeast Cameroon. Apes at both of these sites are known to use tool sets to gather several species of termites. We collected insect specimens and measured the characteristics of their nests. Associated chimpanzee tool assemblages were documented at both sites, and video recordings conducted in the Goualougo Triangle. Although Macrotermitinae assemblages were identical, we found differences in the tools used to gather these termites. Based on measurements of the chimpanzee tools and termite nests at each site, we concluded that some characteristics of chimpanzee tools were directly related to termite nest structure. However, chimpanzees of the Goualougo Triangle used different tool sets to gather M. muelleri and M. lilljeborgi, whereas the same tool sets were used for both species at La Belgique. Our conclusion is that some of the regional variation in chimpanzee technology is due to microecological differences, whereas other aspects are likely related to social influences.

This research was supported by the National Geographic Society and the Max Planck Society.

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