Tool-using, ground-nesting chimp culture discovered in DR Congo

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  • On today’s episode, we talk to primatologist Cleve Hicks, who recently led a research team that discovered a new tool-using chimp culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Hicks and team spent 12 years documenting the behaviors of a group of chimps in the Bili-Uéré region of northern DRC, and their findings include an entirely new chimpanzee tool kit featuring four different kinds of tools. The chimps also build ground nests, which is highly unusual for any group of chimps — but especially for chimps living around dangerous predators like lions and leopards.
  • And the Eastern chimps’ novel use of tools and ground nesting aren’t even the most interesting behavioral quirks they displayed, Hicks says.

On today’s episode, we talk to primatologist Cleve Hicks, who recently led a research team that discovered a new tool-using chimp culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Hicks, a professor at Poland’s University of Warsaw and a researcher with the Department of Primatology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, says that, just a few decades ago, chimpanzees’ various behavioral traditions appeared to be distributed in a fairly haphazard manner, with few discernible patterns. But now that scientists have collected data from a number of chimp study sites, patterns are emerging: chimps in Central Africa use clubs to pound open beehives, for instance, while the use of stone and wooden hammers to crack nuts is limited to chimps in a certain region of West Africa.

Hicks and team have now made a major contribution to our further understanding of chimp culture with a paper published last month describing a completely new chimpanzee behavioral realm. The team spent 12 years documenting the behaviors of a group of chimps in the Bili-Uéré region of northern DRC, and their findings include an entirely new chimpanzee tool kit featuring four different kinds of tools: a long ant probe, a short probe, a thin wand, and a digging stick. The chimps also build ground nests, which is highly unusual for any group of chimps — but especially for chimps living around dangerous predators like lions and leopards.

The Eastern chimps’ novel use of tools and ground nesting aren’t even the most interesting behavioral quirks they displayed, Hicks says. He discusses the many distinct behavioral traits that sets this group of chimps apart from others, including their predilection for termites, and tells us how the discovery of this chimp behavioral realm can help us understand the beginnings of human culture.

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A chimp in Gangu Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo Credit: Ephrem Mpaka Lukuru.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001

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This story first appeared on Mongabay

South Africa Today – Environment



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