Chimpanzees observed hunting with spears


I am chimp; hear me roar: Photo courtesy wordman1, Flickr Creative Commons
I am chimp; hear me roar: Photo courtesy wordman1, Flickr Creative Commons
Chimpanzees, mankind’s closest living relatives, have been observed in the wild fashioning spears out of sticks to hunt for smaller primates.

Jill Pruetz, a primatologist at Iowa State University, and her team have witnessed several chimpanzees (Pan troglodyte verus) breaking off tree branches, removing the leaves, twigs and bark, and sharpening the ends with their teeth. The tools were then used to forcibly stab at bushbabies (Galago senegalensis), small nocturnal prosimians, sleeping inside hollow branches or tree trunks.

The chimpanzees in the study live in a savannah habitat in southeastern Senegal, an environment similar to that from which human ancestors evolved.

Tool use by chimps isn’t unprecedented. Our ape cousins have been observed using tools to catch delicious termites, soak up water to drink, or to break open nuts to eat. But this is the first time tool-assisted hunting has been observed.

The chimps were seen using the sharpened sticks to stab inside the bush babies’ nests, and then would withdraw the sticks and taste the ends, presumably to see if blood had been drawn. The chimps were also observed removing the injured or dead bushbabies they had successfully hunted, and eating them.

But what’s equally interesting is who’s doing the actual hunting.

"It is not adult males, but young chimpanzees, including adolescent females, who are exhibiting this behavior,” Pruetz said.

"This has important implications for how we think about the evolution of tool use in our own species. We have tended to emphasize the role of adult males in hunting, and this research supports the assertion that we should not ignore females and other individuals."

The results of Pruetz’s research can be found in the February 22, 2007 online version of Current Biology.



Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

omg that monkey looks scary

posted on Sat, 02/24/2007 - 12:27pm
M.A.S.'s picture
M.A.S. says:

They started using spears as a use to hunt for food. This is a huge evelutionary step for the chimp. The next thing that will happen is they will start using these tools to wage war against themselves, joining the ranks of humans in an overwhelming effort to obliderate themselves and everything around them.

posted on Sun, 02/25/2007 - 6:15pm
bryan kennedy's picture

I don't think this is seen as an evolutionary step. Chimps actually participate in war like behaviors already--organized group aggression against other chimp groups. We just haven't observed them making and using spears until now.

posted on Mon, 02/26/2007 - 12:14pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

As the great Lawgiver said "ape shall not kill ape" and that was the law until General Ursus in the fifth sequel killed an ape totally upsetting Roddy MacDowel.

posted on Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:37pm
Henrey's picture
Henrey says:

That is so coooooooooooooool

posted on Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:11am
Chizz's picture
Chizz says:

Man thats CRAZY. I wonder how that primate species suddenly started to hut with weapons? I think it would be wrong to say that their brains have evolved in such a short period of time... mabye perhaps it was a "genius" primate that developed the idea. Either way thats nuts.

posted on Sun, 03/18/2007 - 6:57pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

There is a distance course now being taught from the Senegal site where these chimps are studied:


posted on Fri, 10/26/2007 - 6:15pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

wow if this keeps going there could be a new civalisation that could suck or rock. =)

posted on Mon, 04/13/2009 - 5:46pm

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