Chimps in Senegal found to fashion spears for hunting

April 15, 2015 by Bob Yirka report
Tool-assisted hunting by chimpanzee at Fongoli, Sénégal. Adult male chimpanzee uses modified tree branch with modified end to (a–c) stab into a cavity within a hollow tree branch that housed a Galago he ultimately captures as (d) his adolescent brother looks on. Images are courtesy of BBC. Credit: (c) Royal Society Open Science, DOI: 10.1098/rsos.140507

(Phys.org)—Members of a troop of chimpanzees living at a site called Fongoli in southeastern Senegal have been observed by scientists fashioning tree branches into spears and using them to hunt and kill bushbabies. The researchers, a combined team with members from the U.S. the U.K. and Germany have published their observations and findings in Royal Society Open Science.

In their seven year study of the living at the site, the researchers spotted chimpanzees breaking off tree branches, tearing off smaller branches and leaves, removing the weak tips and sometimes gnawing on the ends to sharpen them. The spears (which were on average about 75 centimeters long) were then used to stab bushbabies sleeping in their nests in tree hollows. The poking, the team reports was not lethal, instead, it caused injuries to the bushbabies which was enough to allow the chimps to bite and kill them with relative ease.

Bushbabies are small primates with big eyes and sharp teeth, and serve as a primary protein source for the chimps living in that part of Africa, where other sources are rare. The researchers began their study in 2007, observing chimp behavior up until last year. During that time period they recorded 308 spear hunting events, which they noted, was more common for females than males—they accounted for 61 percent of the total. The researchers suggest this is likely the case because it is more difficult for females to chase down prey because they almost always have offspring clinging to their bodies. To date, the chimps are the only known animal to use a tool as a weapon to hunt a "large" animal, other than humans—chimps in other troops have been seen to use twigs as tools to help collect termites, but scientists do not count that as hunting.

The researchers also found that the troop at Fongoli was a much more cooperative collective than has been found in chimp troops in other parts of Africa—dominant males, for example, allow females and smaller males to keep and eat what they kill, rather than stealing it from them. That might help explain the development of tool use, which the team speculates, likely began with females. They also suggest the same might be said for early humans, who developed weapons use in a very similar environment.

Explore further: Study finds savanna chimps exhibit sharing behavior like humans

More information: New evidence on the tool-assisted hunting exhibited by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in a savannah habitat at Fongoli, Senegal, Royal Society Open Science, www.dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.140507

For anthropologists, meat eating by primates like chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) warrants examination given the emphasis on hunting in human evolutionary history. As referential models, apes provide insight into the evolution of hominin hunting given their phylogenetic relatedness and challenges reconstructing extinct hominin behaviour from palaeoanthropological evidence. Among chimpanzees, adult males are usually the main hunters, capturing vertebrate prey by hand. Savannah chimpanzees (P. t. verus) at Fongoli, Sénégal are the only known nonhuman population that systematically hunts vertebrate prey with tools, making them an important source for hypotheses of early hominin behaviour based on analogy. Here, we test the hypothesis that sex and age patterns in tool-assisted hunting (n = 308 cases) at Fongoli occur and differ from chimpanzees elsewhere, and we compare tool-assisted hunting to the overall hunting pattern. Males accounted for 70% of all captures but hunted with tools less than expected based on their representation on hunting days. Females accounted for most toolassisted hunting. We propose that social tolerance at Fongoli along with the tool-assisted hunting method, permits individuals other than adult males to capture and retain control of prey, which is uncommon for chimpanzees. We assert that tool-assisted hunting could have similarly been important for early hominins.

Press release

Related Stories

Chimps with higher-ranking moms do better in fights

January 28, 2015

For chimpanzees, just like humans, teasing, taunting and bullying are familiar parts of playground politics. An analysis of 12 years of observations of playground fights between young chimpanzees in East Africa finds that ...

Chimpanzees use sex tools

May 5, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Many animals are known to use tools, but chimpanzees (our closest living relatives) show the most varied and complex use of tools, and the males in one group of chimps have even been observed using sex tools ...

Recommended for you

Atlas of the RNA universe takes shape

December 7, 2016

As the floor plan of the living world, DNA guides the composition of animals ranging from unicellular organisms to humans. DNA not only helps shepherd every organism from birth through death, it also plays an essential role ...

Gene "bookmarking" regulates the fate of stem cells

December 7, 2016

A protein that stays attached on chromosomes during cell division plays a critical role in determining the type of cell that stem cells can become. The discovery, made by EPFL scientists, has significant implications for ...

7 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (9) Apr 15, 2015
dominant males, for example, allow females and smaller males to keep and eat what they kill, rather than stealing it from them.

Smart move. Otherwise they might find themselves at the wrong end of a couple of pointy sticks.

Cue Monty Python sketch "Self-Defence Against Fresh Fruit"
"How do you defend yourself against anyone who attacks with a pointed stick?"
"Ooh, ooh, ooh; want to learn how to defend yourself against pointed sticks, do we? Getting all high and mighty, eh? Fresh fruit not good enough for you, eh? Well let me tell you something my lad! When you're walking home tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after YOU with a bunch of loganberries, don't come cryin' to me!"
SuperThunderRocketJockey
3.9 / 5 (8) Apr 15, 2015
I started to say "so like us" but then I realized I know tons of people who couldn't make a spear for hunting, and would probably be preyed upon by bush babies if they were in their habitat.
Mike_Massen
3.8 / 5 (6) Apr 16, 2015
Interesting evolution of cultural paradigms, there may well be more subtle relationships between males & females re their "property". One can imagine if a male is finished with the spear for the moment and a female not nursing were to play, experiment & use it to find food if there could be some associative between them re ownership, rental, payment etc.

"..just put it on account for now love, when I wake up give us a nice cuddle to settle it, wink"

Other primates show very human like behavior too, Bonobo monkeys have been shown to exhibit a clear form of the golden rule ie "do unto others as you would be done by.." in terms of offering fruit gifts to strangers... Also to release group argumentative tensions they engage in group sex orgies including "non-procreative" sex too !

They also check their hair parting by looking at their reflection in a stream but, hey do they do this before or after sex ;-)

https://en.wikipe...behavior
antigoracle
not rated yet Apr 16, 2015
dominant males, for example, allow females and smaller males to keep and eat what they kill, rather than stealing it from them.

Smart move. Otherwise they might find themselves at the wrong end of a couple of pointy sticks.

Smart move indeed, until he figures out how to make a bigger and pointier stick.
Osiris1
4 / 5 (2) Apr 16, 2015
Who says males 'invented' the pointy sticks. Maybe the females did to ward off 'sexual hairassment'.
Eddy Courant
not rated yet Apr 18, 2015
Has Sarah Palin seen this?
KBK
not rated yet Apr 19, 2015
chicks with guns.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.