The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

The role of the hunter: stable isotope evidence of hunting in adult male chimpanzees


1Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 2Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 3Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia

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Comparisons with our closest living relatives, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), can potentially shed light on whether hunting, and associated meat eating or plant food consumption played a larger role in shaping hominin evolution. There is variation in diet amongst different chimpanzee communities, and amongst chimpanzees of the same group. Substantial amounts of meat are eaten by adult male chimpanzees at Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire compared to their female counterparts, and juveniles. Additionally the nature of group hunting at Taï suggests that meat consumption is linked to an individuals’ role in the hunt. Quantification of meat eating through behavioural observations alone is difficult, however stable isotope analysis can further elucidate the role of meat in the chimpanzee diet. This study employed δ13C and δ15N of hair keratin to determine if behavioural observations of hunting and meat-eating correlate with protein-associated δ15N values. Significant sex differences were confirmed, with adult males being significantly more enriched in δ15N compared to adult females. Furthermore, irrespective of rank, successful hunters had δ15N values ~1.0‰ higher than their less successful counterparts indicating that meat consumption by male Taï chimpanzees is highly dependent on participation in meat acquisition. These results provide a platform for understanding the initiation of the sexual division of labour, and further assist our interpretation of hunting and meat eating in our early hominin ancestors.

Research is funded by the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

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