6 days ago
Thursday, April 3, 2008
A new story on NPR discusses some recent research following a specific tribe of chimpanzees in Senegal.
The chimps have been observed creating spears from tree branches, as well as drumming rhythmically on hollow trees to attract possible mates and intimidate rivals. Additionally, chimps in Senegal have also been observed using caves for shelter.
The anthropologist involved in the research, along with a photographer companion, followed the band of chimpanzees for weeks, foregoing even a change of clothes in order to get closer to the group. Other tribes in the area studied by the researcher had been known to use the "ant-dipping" technique for catching termites (see the reference), but the cave use was almost unprecendented, as well as the use of homemade spears for hunting bushbabies. Other surveys have indicated the chimps use certain leaves for apparent medicinal purposes.
In truth, I'm not equipped to speak very profoundly on the subject, as my training is in physics. However, I would certainly argue that these studies argue very strongly - certainly in a natural sense - against a sharp and extensive distinction between humans and our closest genetic neighbors.
McGrew, W., Pruetz, J., Fulton, S. (2005). Chimpanzees Use Tools to Harvest Social Insects at Fongoli, Senegal. Folia Primatologica, 76(4), 222-226. DOI: 10.1159/000086023