Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chimpanzees using spears

Zoologists working in Senegal on the west coast of Africa have discovered chimpanzees making and using wooden spears to hunt for monkeys.

The BBC reports that Jill Pruetz and Paco Bertolani have published a paper documenting 22 cases of chimps making spears. The chimps use the spears as hunting weapons, not probes, jabbing them into hollows in trees to catch bushbabies.

Chimpanzee Lessor bushbaby

Although male chimps have long been regarded as the hunters, it was females (particularly adolescents) and not the males who made and used the spears.

Hunting by chimpanzees is not a new discovery, but this is the first time chimps have been found to make weapons, reinforcing their status as one of the tool-making as well as tool-using species. The chimps in this study live in an area of Senegal without their usual prey, the red colobus monkey, and the researchers suggest that having to hunt for a different sort of prey has encouraged the chimps to develop new technology.

More information can be found here.

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