, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 91-102

How does stone-tool use emerge? Introduction of stones and nuts to naïve chimpanzees in captivity

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Abstract

Nut-cracking behavior has been reported in several communities in West Africa but not in East and Central Africa. Furthermore, even within nut-cracking communities, there are individuals who do not acquire the skill. The present study aimed to clarify the cognitive capability required for nut-cracking behavior and the process through which the the nut-cracking behavior emerges. To examine emergence, we provided three naïve adult chimpanzees with a single opportunity to observe human models. A human tester demonstrated nut-cracking behavior using a pair of stones and then supplied stones and nuts to the chimpanzee subjects. Two out of three chimpanzees proceeded to hit a nut on an anvil stone using a hammer stone, one of whom succeeded in cracking open the nuts during the first test session. The third chimpanzee failed to crack open nuts. We used four variables (object, location, body part used, and action) to describe stone/nut manipulation in order to analyze further the patterns of object manipulation exhibited by the subjects. The analysis revealed that there were three main difficulties associated with nut-cracking behavior. (1) The chimpanzee who failed at the task never showed hitting action. (2) The chimpanzee who failed at the task manipulated nuts but rarely stones. (3) The combination of three objects was not commonly observed in the three chimpanzees. We also discuss our results with reference to the effect of enculturation in captivity and the social context of learning in the wild.