Animal Cognition

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 235–244

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

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10071-003-0187-6

Cite this article as:
Hirata, S. & Celli, M.L. Anim Cogn (2003) 6: 235. doi:10.1007/s10071-003-0187-6


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 

Supplementary material

Video S1 An example of “Observe”. An infant (AYUMU) observes his mother (Ai) using a knobbly plastic string as a tool to fish for honey

hirata1.mpg (1.8 MB)

Video S2 An example of “Rejection”. A mother (Chloe) rejects her infant’s (CLEO) reaching for and trying to lick a tool (rubber tube) by pushing the infant’s head back

hirata2.mpg (1.2 MB)

Video S3 An example of “Allow to lick”. A mother (Ai) allows her infant (AYUMU) to take away and lick a tool (knobbly plastic string)

hirata3.mpg (1.5 MB)

Video S4 An example of “Give”. A mother (Ai) gives the tip of a tool to her infant (AYUMU). The infant reaches for the tool, but the mother licks it herself, then the mother gives the tip of the tool without honey to the infant. The tool touches the mouth of the infant, but the mother soon withdraws it

hirata4.mpg (1.4 MB)

Video S5 A successful insertion by an infant. An infant (PAL) inserts a rubber tube into a honey hole and succeeds in obtaining honey

hirata5.mpg (1.8 MB)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityKanrin, 484-8506 AichiJapan
  2. 2.Great Ape Research InstituteHayashibara Biochemical Laboratories, Inc.Okayama Japan

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