Original Article

Animal Cognition

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 235-244

First online:

Role of mothers in the acquisition of tool-use behaviours by captive infant chimpanzees

  • Satoshi HirataAffiliated withPrimate Research Institute, Kyoto UniversityGreat Ape Research Institute, Hayashibara Biochemical Laboratories, Inc. Email author 
  • , Maura L. CelliAffiliated withPrimate Research Institute, Kyoto University

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This article explores the maternal role in the acquisition of tool-use behaviours by infant chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). A honey-fishing task, simulating ant/termite fishing found in the wild, was introduced to three dyads of experienced mother and naïve infant chimpanzees. Four fishing sites and eight sets of 20 objects to be used as tools, not all appropriate, were available. Two of the mothers constantly performed the task, using primarily two kinds of tools; the three infants observed them. The infants, regardless of the amount of time spent observing, successfully performed the task around the age of 20–22 months, which is earlier than has been recorded in the wild. Two of the infants used the same types of tools that the adults predominantly used, suggesting that tool selectivity is transmitted. The results also show that adults are tolerant of infants, even if unrelated; infants were sometimes permitted to lick the tools, or were given the tools, usually without honey, as well as permitted to observe the adult performances closely.


Acquisition Chimpanzees Mother–infant Tool use Transmission