Scientists have long known that animals use tools, but now for the very first time they’ve captured wild chimpanzee mothers on video teaching their children to utilize them as well. Researchers led by Stephanie Musgrave of Washington University in St. Louis filmed chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo at Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. Before the video it was rare to see primates teaching their young, according to the researchers, and the new findings have exciting ramifications.
Chimpanzee mothers employed a few different techniques to teach their offspring how to use probes made from herbs for termite fishing. In one video, the mother split her tool and gave half to her child, and they began to fish for termites together. In another video, after a chimpanzee child couldn’t get any termites using a tool, a chimpanzee mother gave it the tool she had been using and then changed the child’s probe so she could use it herself. A third video showed a mother giving a child her own probe before she left to find materials to make another one. In addition, chimpanzee children were captured asking their mothers for the tools.
According to Musgrave, sharing tools as some of the chimpanzee mothers did allows their offspring to learn about the form and material for successful probes. The mothers aren’t able to forage as much themselves when they share tools, but the offspring get the opportunity to practice termite fishing. As the mothers experienced reduced ability to work for the benefit of their young, the researchers can say the chimpanzees were indeed teaching. Another satisfied criteria is the chimpanzee children’s termite fishing improved as a result of the teaching.
Musgrave told The Independent, “Studying how young chimpanzees learn the tool skills particular to their group helps us to understand the evolutionary origins of culture and technology and to clarify how human cultural abilities are similar to or different from those of our closest relatives.”
In early October, Scientific Reports published the research prepared by Musgrove and four other scientists from institutes, conservation societies, and universities from the United States, the Republic of Congo, and Germany.
Via The Independent