, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 91–102 | Cite as

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

Original Article


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.


Nut cracking Tool use Chimpanzee Object manipulation 



The present study was supported by grants from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture in Japan (#07102010, 12002009, 16002001), from the biodiversity research of the 21COE (A14), and from JSPS-HOPE. Preparation of the manuscript was supported in part by Research Fellowship 16–1059 to Misato Hayashi from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists. The analysis of the first test session was based on film footage provided by Miho Nakamura, ANC Production. Thanks are due to Masaki Tomonaga, Masayuki Tanaka, and other colleagues at the Section of Language and Intelligence, Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University for their support and helpful comments on the present study. Thanks are also due to Juri Suzuki, Kiyonori Kumazaki, Norihiko Maeda, and other staff members for veterinary and daily care of the chimpanzees. We would like to thank Dora Biro for help given in the course of revising the manuscript. This study complied with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Primates, 2nd edition (2002) published by the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Language and Intelligence, Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityAichi 484-8506Japan

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