"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."
- Charles Darwin

Nov 13, 2007

Tool-Wielding Chimps Reflect Early Human Behavior

Pan the Tool-Maker creatively adapts to harsh environments

Chimpanzees use tools in many environments (here shown with hammer and anvil).

Image: Clive Bromhall/Oxford Scientific Films

A new report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveal multiple tool technologies employed by chimpanzees in their harsh savanna environment, findings that may help researchers understand how our hominin ancestors coped with a changing climate.

As Science Daily reports:

A team of researchers including University of Wisconsin-Madison anthropologist Travis R. Pickering reports evidence of tool use among rare savanna chimps to harvest edible tubers, roots and bulbs.

The finding is important because it chips away at behaviors once seen as uniquely human. It supports the notion that chimpanzees, our closest living evolutionary relatives, can serve as models for understanding some aspects of the lifestyles and behaviors of the earliest members of the human family.

The new study demonstrates that "the understanding and capability to exploit these resources were very likely within the grasp of the first chimp-like hominids," argues Pickering. "It was widely believed that it is a uniquely human adaptation to use tools to dig these things up."

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