Raw material procurement for termite fishing tools by wild chimpanzees in the Issa valley, Western Tanzania

'Raw material procurement for termite fishing tools by wild chimpanzees in the Issa valley, Western Tanzania' by Katarina Almeida-Warren, Volker Sommer, Alex K. Piel, Alejandra Pascual-Garrido

American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2017;00:1–13

Objectives

Chimpanzee termite fishing has been studied for decades, yet the selective processes preceding the manufacture of fishing tools remain largely unexplored. We investigate raw material selection and potential evidence of forward planning in the chimpanzees of Issa valley, western Tanzania.

Materials and Methods

Using traditional archaeological methods, we surveyed the location of plants from where chimpanzees sourced raw material to manufacture termite fishing tools, relative to targeted mounds. We measured raw material abundance to test for availability and selection. Statistics included Chi-Squared, two-tailed Wilcoxon, and Kruskall–Wallace tests.

Results

Issa chimpanzees manufactured extraction tools only from bark, despite availability of other suitable materials (e.g., twigs), and selected particular plant species as raw material sources, which they often also exploit for food. Most plants were sourced 1–16 m away from the mound, with a maximum of 33 m. The line of sight from the targeted mound was obscured for a quarter of these plants.

Discussion

The exclusive use of bark tools despite availability of other suitable materials indicates a possible cultural preference. The fact that Issa chimpanzees select specific plant species and travel some distance to source them suggests some degree of selectivity and, potentially, forward planning. Our results have implications for the reconstruction of early hominin behaviors, particularly with regard to the use of perishable tools, which remain archaeologically invisible.

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