, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 133–145 | Cite as

Plant-food and tool transfer among savanna chimpanzees at Fongoli, Senegal

  • Jill D. PruetzEmail author
  • Stacy Lindshield
Original Article


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.


Sharing Food transfer Chimpanzee Savanna Pan troglodytes verus 



We thank the Republic of Senegal, Department of Eaux et Forets and the Arrondissement du Bandafassi for permission to work in Senegal. Funding was provided by Iowa State University, Great Ape Trust of Iowa, National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Leakey Foundation, Primate Conservation Inc., American Society of Primatologists, Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Society. We thank K. Boyer, J. Marshack, P. Bertolani, M. Gaspersic, S. Bogart, E. Wessling, D. Kante, M. Sahdjakho, and M. Camara for assistance in the field. T.C. LaDuke, K. Klag, K. Walkup, and E. Otarola-Castillo made helpful comments on the manuscript. We thank Dr. M. Nakamura and one anonymous reviewer and would like to especially acknowledge the contribution of the late Dr. T. Nishida in significantly improving this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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