American Journal of Primatology 69, 407-419

Ground-nesting by the chimpanzees of the Nimba Mountains, Guinea: Environmentally or socially determined?

Kathelijne Koops, Tatyana Humle, Elisabeth Sterck, Tetsuro Matsuzawa

Abstract

The chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) of the Nimba Mountains, Guinea, West Africa, commonly make both elaborate (“night") and simple (“day") nests on the ground. In this study we investigated which factors might influence ground-nesting in this population, and tested two ecological hypotheses: 1) climatic conditions, such as high wind speeds at high altitudes, may deter chimpanzees from nesting in trees; and 2) a lack of appropriate arboreal nesting opportunities may drive the chimpanzees to nest on the ground. In addition to testing these two hypotheses, we explored whether ground-nesting is a sex-linked behavior. Data were collected monthly between August 2003 and May 2004 along transects and ad libitum. To identify the sex of ground-nesting individuals, we used DNA extracted from hair samples. The results showed that the occurrence and distribution of ground nests were not affected by climatic conditions or a lack of appropriate nest trees. Support was found for the notion that ground-nesting is a sex-linked behavior, as males were responsible for building all of the elaborate ground nests and most of the simple ground nests sampled. Elaborate ground nests occurred mostly in nest groups associated with tree nests, whereas simple ground nests usually occurred without tree nests in their vicinity. These results suggest that ground-nesting may be socially, rather than ecologically, determined.

Keywords

ground-nesting, Pan troglodytes verus, Nimba Mountains, DNA analyses

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Koops K, Humle T, Sterck E, Matsuzawa T (2007) Ground-nesting by the chimpanzees of the Nimba Mountains, Guinea: Environmentally or socially determined? American Journal of Primatology 69, 407-419 , doi: 10.1002/ajp.20358