Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chimpanzees Hunt With Spears And Live In Caves
On the dry, lightly forested savanna of southeastern Senegal there lives a very special group of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). The Fongoli group, named after the region they inhabit, exhibit some striking behavioral differences from their forest dwelling relatives in other parts of Africa.

In the absence of adequate trees to live in these apes have taken to spending a good deal of their time in caves. It brings to mind the habits our own ancestors picked up when they left  the jungle. But that's not the most amazing thing these creatures do.
They hunt with spears.

That's right, spears. These chimps break off live branches a little over two feet long, strip off the leaves, and then sharpen the points with their teeth.

Then they jab them into the daytime nesting cavities of bushbabies, the small nocturnal primate on the right. Once they have killed the bushbaby, they pull it out for a nice protein rich snack.

That is so cool. I remember when I was a child how all the books said tool use separated us from the animals. Now you have "animals" doing something only humans are supposed to be capable of.
 What is most amazing to me about this phenomenon is that it seem to be the sole domain of the chimpanzee women and children. Adult males hunt by hand and rarely share their meat.

So it seems the females invented this trick to compete with the stronger males, and are now passing it on to their children. Even the young males are learning.

Think about it. In a few generations the entire group could be hunting this way. This could be the birth of a spear hunting culture. Imagine, if we can keep these marvelous animals from sliding int extinction, in a thousand years we could be watching them coax fire from stones.

In a million we could be hanging out together at the local library.

I know that may seem far fetched, but no other creature on this planet is as closely related to us as the chimpanzee. If we can keep them from going down that dark tunnel into extinction, there is really no telling what new wonders they will share with us.

1 comment:

  1. I found out about the blog from a friend: I was just browsing the articles and this article in particular is very interesting, but the pictures aren't loading.