Plant-food and tool transfer among savanna chimpanzees at Fongoli, Senegal
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Transferring food is considered a defining characteristic of humans, as such behavior is relatively uncommon in other animal species save for kin-based transfer. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are one exception, as they commonly transfer meat among nonrelatives but rarely transfer other resources. New observations at Fongoli, Senegal, show habitual transfer of wild-plant foods and other non-meat resources among community members beyond transfers from mother to offspring. We explore various explanations for these behaviors with a focus on age- and sex-class patterns in transfer events. In a total of 27 of 41 cases, male chimpanzees at Fongoli transferred wild-plant foods or tools to females. Most other cases involved transfer among males or males taking food from females. In light of male–female transfer patterns at Fongoli, we examine four hypotheses that have been applied to food transfer in apes: (1) testing for male-coercive tendency (van Noordwijk and van Schaik, Behav Ecol Sociobiol 63:883–890, 2009), (2) costly signaling (Hockings et al. PLoS ONE 2:e886, 2007), (3) food-for-sex (Gomes and Boesch, PLoS ONE 4:5116, 2009), and (4) sharing-under-pressure (Gilby, Anim Behav 71:953–963, 2006). We also consider hypotheses posed to explain transfer among callitrichids, where such behavior is more common (Ruiz-Miranda et al. Am J Primatol 48:305–320, 1999). Finally, we examine variables such as patch and food size and food transport. We discuss our findings relative to general patterns of non-meat transfer in Pan and examine them in the context of chimpanzee sociality in particular. We then contrast chimpanzee species and subspecies in terms of non-meat food and tool transfer and address the possibility that a savanna environment contributes to the unusual pattern observed at Fongoli.