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Naïve, adult, captive chimpanzees do not socially learn how to make and use sharp stone tools


Bandini, Elisa; Tennie, Claudio (2023). Naïve, adult, captive chimpanzees do not socially learn how to make and use sharp stone tools. Scientific Reports, 13(1):22733.

Abstract

Although once regarded as a unique human feature, tool-use is widespread in the animal kingdom. Some of the most proficient tool-users are our closest living relatives, chimpanzees. These repertoires however consist primarily of tool use, rather than tool manufacture (for later use). Furthermore, most populations of chimpanzees use organic materials, such as sticks and leaves, rather than stones as tools. This distinction may be partly ecological, but it is also important as chimpanzees are often used as models for the evolution of human material culture, the oldest traces of which consist of manufactured sharp stone tools (so-called “flakes”). Thus, examining the conditions (if any) under which chimpanzees may develop flake manufacture and use can provide insight into the drivers of these behaviours in our own lineage. Previous studies on non-human apes’ ability to make and use flakes focused on enculturated apes, giving them full demonstrations of the behaviour immediately, without providing social information on the task in a stepwise manner. Here we tested naïve, captive chimpanzees (N = 4; three potentially enculturated and one unenculturated subject) in a social learning experimental paradigm to investigate whether enculturated and/or unenculturated chimpanzees would develop flake making and use after social information of various degrees (including a human demonstration) was provided in a scaffolded manner. Even though social learning opportunities were provided, neither the unenculturated subject nor any of the potentially enculturated subjects made or used flakes, in stark contrast to previous studies with enculturated apes. These data suggest that flake manufacture and use is outside of our tested group of captive chimpanzees’ individual and social learning repertoires. It also suggests that high levels of enculturation alongside human demonstrations (and/or training) may be required before captive chimpanzees can develop this behaviour.

Abstract

Although once regarded as a unique human feature, tool-use is widespread in the animal kingdom. Some of the most proficient tool-users are our closest living relatives, chimpanzees. These repertoires however consist primarily of tool use, rather than tool manufacture (for later use). Furthermore, most populations of chimpanzees use organic materials, such as sticks and leaves, rather than stones as tools. This distinction may be partly ecological, but it is also important as chimpanzees are often used as models for the evolution of human material culture, the oldest traces of which consist of manufactured sharp stone tools (so-called “flakes”). Thus, examining the conditions (if any) under which chimpanzees may develop flake manufacture and use can provide insight into the drivers of these behaviours in our own lineage. Previous studies on non-human apes’ ability to make and use flakes focused on enculturated apes, giving them full demonstrations of the behaviour immediately, without providing social information on the task in a stepwise manner. Here we tested naïve, captive chimpanzees (N = 4; three potentially enculturated and one unenculturated subject) in a social learning experimental paradigm to investigate whether enculturated and/or unenculturated chimpanzees would develop flake making and use after social information of various degrees (including a human demonstration) was provided in a scaffolded manner. Even though social learning opportunities were provided, neither the unenculturated subject nor any of the potentially enculturated subjects made or used flakes, in stark contrast to previous studies with enculturated apes. These data suggest that flake manufacture and use is outside of our tested group of captive chimpanzees’ individual and social learning repertoires. It also suggests that high levels of enculturation alongside human demonstrations (and/or training) may be required before captive chimpanzees can develop this behaviour.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:590 Animals (Zoology)
570 Life sciences; biology
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:20 December 2023
Deposited On:08 Feb 2024 10:30
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:39
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2045-2322
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-49780-0
PubMed ID:38123639
Project Information:
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID714658
  • : Project TitleSTONECULT - Do early stone tools indicate a hominin ability to accumulate culture?
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)