, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 329-342
Date: 30 Aug 2011

Natural history of Camponotus ant-fishing by the M group chimpanzees at the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to provide basic data on ant-fishing behavior among the M group chimpanzees at the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. Ant-fishing is a type of tool-using behavior that has been exhibited by Mahale chimpanzees when feeding upon arboreal carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) since the 1970s, and is now regarded as a candidate of wild chimpanzee culture. Herein, I describe in detail the features of ant-fishing shown by the Mahale M group chimpanzees: (1) 2 species of Camponotus ants (Camponotus sp. (chrysurus-complex) [C. sp.1] and C. brutus) were identified as the target species of ant-fishing, and C. sp.1 was selected intensively as the main target; (2) 24 species (92 individuals) of trees were identified as ant-fishing sites–these were widely distributed throughout the western/lowland region of the M group’s home range, and the top 5 species were used more frequently; (3) the efficiency of ant-fishing was influenced not only by the site choice or the skillfulness of the chimpanzees, but inevitably by the condition of the ants; (4) the estimated nutritional intake from ant-fishing was apparently negligible; (5) most of the M group members (50/60 individuals) older than 3 years of age successfully used tools to fish for ants; and (6) female chimpanzees engaged in ant-fishing more frequently and for longer periods than males did. Further, I compared the features of ant-fishing exhibited by the Mahale M group chimpanzees with those exhibited by the former K group at Mahale and by other populations of wild chimpanzees.