International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Innovation in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

  • Christophe Boesch
Important Announcement


Innovations of behavior have major implications for the concept of culture in animals. Innovation has rarefy been documented in wild animal populations. The chimpanzees of the Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire, spontaneously included new patterns of behavior in their repertoire during our study. Some innovations were incorporated into a minority of the group members’ repertoire, whereas others, such as building day nests in trees and on the ground more frequently, became general behaviors. Similarly, new contexts for use of leaf- clipping behavior and novel ways of feeding on some leaves appeared and rapidly became part of the behavior of most group members. The environmental parameters were too stable to explain these new forms of behavior, as most of them took place within 1 month during the same dry season. In a similar way, leaf- grooming acquired a new function in Gombe chimpanzees. A process similar to social conventions could explain the emergence of these new functions for an existing behavior in a way rather similar to human “fashion. ” Three major characteristics of human culture — the absence of individual variations in the performance of the behavior, the general use of the behavior by group members, and the ability to modify the function of a behavior — characterize leaf-clipping in Taï chimpanzees and leaf- grooming in Gombe chimpanzees.

Key words

chimpanzee culture innovation tool-use cross-population comparisons 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christophe Boesch
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of ZoologyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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