Now for the first time, cultural differences between directlyneighboring chimpanzee groups have been found in the wild and arereported by Lydia Luncz, Roger Mundry and Christophe Boesch of theMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig,Germany. The Taï chimpanzee project field site in Côte d'Ivoirepresents the unique opportunity to study three neighboringchimpanzee communities at the same time, making it possible todirectly compare the behaviors present in each community.Chimpanzees in Côte d'Ivoire use stone and wooden tools tocrack nuts. Lydia Luncz was therefore able to observe how thechimpanzees were selecting hammers to crack Coula nuts in the threeadjacent communities. After placing gathered Coula nuts on rootanvils, the chimpanzees of all three neighboring communitiesprimarily select stones to use as hammers. However, as the nut season advances and nuts get drier and easierto crack, the chimpanzees of two of the communities select agreater proportion of wooden hammers which are easier to find inthe forest, while the members of the third community continue tofavor stone hammers. |
Furthermore, the two communities that selectwooden hammers choose distinctly different sized hammers. All ofthe chimpanzees live in a contiguous stretch of the large TaïNational Park and therefore ecological differences are unlikely toexplain the differences in tool selection. "In humans, cultural differences are an essential part of whatdistinguishes neighboring groups that live in very similarenvironments," said Lydia Luncz of the Max Planck Institutefor Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, the lead authorof the paper. "For the first time, a very similar situationhas been found in wild chimpanzees living in the Taï NationalPark, Côte d'Ivoire, and this demonstrates that they sharewith us the ability for fine-scale cultural differentiation." "In many ways, chimpanzees are very similar to ushumans," Christophe Boesch said, the director of the Taïchimpanzee project, and co-author of the paper. "By studyingthe similarities to our closest living relatives in their naturalhabitat in Africa, we have the opportunity to learn more about theevolutionary roots of culture, which is for us humans one of thekey elements of our identity." Certainly more can be learned about the cultural abilities ofchimpanzees in the wild by studying this specific population.Therefore, Lydia Luncz will be returning to Côte d'Ivoireearly next year to study different aspects of the cultural life ofthe Taï chimpanzees.
Time is of the essence, however, aschimpanzees are threatened across their natural range. Further, agreat deal of chimpanzee cultural variation must have vanished overthe last few decades, as 90% of the chimpanzee populations in Coted'Ivoire have disappeared over the last 20 years. The Wild Chimpanzee Foundation was created by Christophe Boesch to enhance the survival of theremaining wild chimpanzee populations and their habitat, thetropical rain forest, throughout tropical Africa.
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