Friday, 18 November 2016

New behavioral variant in wild chimpanzees: Algae fishing in Bakoun, Guinea

Date: November 10, 2016
Source: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Chimpanzees often use tools to extract or consume food but which tools they choose for which purpose can differ depending on where they live. In 2010, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, initiated the 'Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee' to characterize and understand the differences in chimpanzee behaviours in un- and poorly studied ape populations across Africa. This is how the researchers encountered a new behavioural variant: Algae fishing with long robust tools at a temporary research site in Bakoun, Guinea.

Chimpanzees have been studied for almost 60 years at a few long-term field sites which have been fundamental for providing insights into natural chimpanzee behavior and most importantly into the differences between populations. However, the true behavioral repertoire of chimpanzees is under represented by these long-term sites alone. Therefore, to better understand the ecological and evolutionary drivers of behavioral diversification in chimpanzees, researchers of the Department of Primatology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology initiated the 'Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee' (PanAf). Since 2010, while following a unique standardized protocol, data on chimpanzee behavior, demography and resource availability have been collected from over 40 different temporary research sites across Africa. "The PanAf project represents a new approach to studying chimpanzees and will provide many interesting insights into chimpanzee demography and social structure, genetics, behavior and culture," says Hjalmar Kuehl of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research. "The PanAf is only possible due to the numerous collaborations with chimpanzee researchers, field workers and national wildlife authorities in 15 countries across Africa." Earlier this year, the collaborative network of researchers published a paper detailing a newly observed 'chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing' behavior.

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