Socioecological influences on tool use in captive chimpanzees.

Maura L. Celli, Satoshi Hirata, Masaki Tomonaga


Some tool use in wild chimpanzees is seasonal because they follow the patterns of availability of resources. The type and abundance of vegetation affect the selection of materials used for tools. Besides triggering, does seasonality also shape tool use? We tested the tool performance of 2 chimpanzee groups in a large outdoor compound, enriched with hundreds of plants. We conducted the experiments in 4 seasons to test their behavioural adaptation to the environmental changes. Initially the groups showed preference for different tool materials, one group using grass, abundant in summer, the other using twigs. While twigs were constant through the year, the availability of grass fluctuated greatly, affecting the number of insertions and success of the individuals that used it. Therefore, seasonality did not affect the performance of the group that preferred twigs (less abundant but constant) as it affected the performance of the group that preferred grass (plentiful in certain seasons and scarce in others). We recorded several cases of observation, which may have biased the choices of material. Analysis of the episodes and first insertions of some subjects suggests social transmission, which might explain the initial intergroup difference in tool preference.


chimpanzees, honey-fishing, Pan troglodytes, seasonality, tool use,

Article Information
Celli ML. , Hirata S, Tomonaga M(2004)Socioecological influences on tool use in captive chimpanzees. International Journal of Primatology, 25, 1267-1281
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