|The hunted (a galago). Credit: flickr user Robertsphotos1|
Over the course of the study, ninety-nine instances of chimpanzee hunting were recorded, including episodes during which tools were used. Both male and female chimpanzees hunt Galago more than any other vertebrate at Fongoli. After observing and documenting episodes of chimpanzees hunting with the use of tools, females were significantly more likely to use a tool than were males. Pruetz and colleagues (2015) report 170 instances of females using tools compared to 130 instances of males using them when hunting.
Uh oh fellas, does this mean female chimps are smarter than males? No, it doesn't. Let's not jump to any conclusions here.
|Pan troglodytes. Photo credit: William Warby|
This isn't the only difference between the sexes when it comes to chimpanzee hunting. Males are known to hunt more than females (Fahy et al., 2013; Stanford, 1999). At Fongoli, Pruetz and colleagues also found while Galago made up 75% of females' prey, it accounted for only 47% of males'. Only male chimpanzees at Fongoli hunt patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas). Successful hunters were more likely to be male than female. However, when both sexes used tools to hunt Galago, there was no difference in success rate between males and females.
As Pruetz and colleagues discuss in this paper, their study has implications for human evolution. Tools likely played a part in how our early human ancestors hunted, thus studying chimpanzees allows us to better understand what hunting may have looked like in early humans.
Food for thought: Can you think of any reasons why females use tools to hunt more frequently than males do?
Why might chimps use tools to hunt at Fongoli and not elsewhere?
Links of potential interest:
Video of Pruetz discussing chimps hunting bushbabies
Nat Geo article on Fongoli chimps
Tool Use, Hunting, and Other Discoveries
J. D. Pruetz , P. Bertolani , K. Boyer Ontl , S. Lindshield , M. Shelley , E. G. Wessling. New evidence on the tool-assisted hunting exhibited by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in a savannah habitat at Fongoli, Sénégal. Royal Society Open Science, 15 April 2015
Fahy, G.E., Richards, M., Riedal, J., Hublin, J., Boesch, C. 2013. Stable isotope evidence of meat eating and hunting specialization in adult male chimpanzees. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 5829-5833
Stanford, C.B. 1999. The hunting apes:meat eating and the origins of human behavior. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.