Chimpanzees’ special tools for hunting ants


This video is called Chimpanzees’ sophisticated use of tools – BBC wildlife.

From Wildlife Extra:

Chimpanzees found to have favoured tools for hunting ants

In order to successfully hunt aggressive army ants West African chimpanzees will search far and wide to find the perfect tools.

The Alchornea hirtella plant is what they are looking for as this provides the two tools required for the job; a thicker shoot for ‘digging’ and a more slender tool for ‘dipping’. If Alchornea hirtella is nowhere to be found, chimps will fashion tools from other plants — but seemingly only after an exhaustive search for their preferred tool provider.

Once the chimps have located an army ant colony, they will dig into the nest with the first tool to aggravate the insects. They then dip the second tool into the nest, causing the angry ants to swarm up it. Once the slender shoot is covered in ants, the chimpanzees pull scoop up a substantial handful from the shoot to eat.

A diet of army ants was believed to be a last resort for hungry chimps, only exploited when the animal’s preferred food of fruit couldn’t be found. But the latest study, based on over ten years of data, shows that, in fact, army ants are a staple in the chimpanzee diet — eaten all year round regardless of available sources of fruit.

“Ant dipping is a remarkable feat of problem-solving on the part of chimpanzees,” said lead author Dr Kathelijne Koops from the University of Cambridge.

“If they tried to gather ants from the ground with their hands, they would end up horribly bitten with very little to show for it. But by using a tool set, preying on these social insects may prove as nutritionally lucrative as hunting a small mammal – a solid chunk of protein.

“Scientists have been working on ruling out simple environmental and genetic explanations for group differences in behaviours, such as tool use, and the evidence is pointing strongly towards it being cultural,” said Koops. “They probably learn tool use behaviours from their mother and others in the group when they are young.

“By studying our closest living relatives we gain a window into the evolutionary past which allows us to shed light on the origins of human technology and material culture.”

Bonobos rival chimps at the art of cracking oil palm nuts: here.

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