, 52:329 | Cite as

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

Original Article


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.


Chimpanzee Tool-use Ant-fishing Camponotus Mahale Culture 



This study was financially supported by a MEXT Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (#16255007 to T. Nishida and #19107007 to J. Yamagiwa), and a Grant-in-Aid for 21st Century COE Research (A14). I thank the COSTECH, TAWIRI, and TANAPA for permissions to conduct the fieldwork; and MMWRC and MMNP for logistic support. I am grateful to T. Nishida, M. Nakamura, N. Itoh, and K. Zamma for their valuable advice and encouragement; H. Ihobe, K Ihobe, M. Shimada, T. Nishida, M. Nakai, S. Uehara, K. Zamma, and M. Nakamura for their cooperation in the field. I am grateful to J. Yamagiwa and two anonymous referees for valuable comments on the manuscript. This field research could not have been completed without the help of field assistants: R. Kitopeni, M. Hamisi, R. Hawazi, M. Mwami, H. Bunengwa, K. Athumani, M. Matumla, B. Haruna, M. Makelele, and S. Kabangula. This article is dedicated to the memory of Professor Toshisada Nishida.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wildlife Research Center of Kyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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