, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 357–364 | Cite as

The chimpanzee nest quantified: morphology and ecology of arboreal sleeping platforms within the dry habitat site of Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Uganda

  • David R. Samson
Original Article


The nightly construction of a sleeping platform (SP) or “nest” is widely regarded as a universal behavior among great apes, yet SP structural morphology has been incompletely quantified to date. This is in part due to the inherent difficulties of gathering empirical data on arboreally sited SPs. I gathered quantitative structural data on SPs (n = 65) at the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve from May to June 2008 and from August 2010 to January 2011. I measured SP length (semi-major axis length), width (semi-minor axis length), radii (length from the surface center to the rim edge 45° from the axis), depth (width of the concavity from the surface center to the parallel rim), and thickness (ventral center to the dorsal underside of the SP). SP complexity was defined with a scored index. SP complexity was found to be correlated with SP circumference, surface area, mass, proportion of soft leafy material to hard woody material, number of frame support branches used in its construction, and other measures that are argued to index “comfort.” In addition, the height of the tree canopy above the SP was negatively correlated with SP complexity. Greater complexity (and therefore stability) is argued to maintain SP integrity, stability and restraint in the face of greater wind speeds, thereby reducing the probability of falls. Given the observation that males site SPs lower than females (Fruth and Hohmann, Ethology 94:113–126, 1994; Brownlow et al., Am J Primatol 55:49–55, 2001), and that SP diameters were greater for SPs sited low in the canopy at Semliki, it is inferred that more massive males benefit from lower climbing expenses and greater stability. These data support Baldwin and colleagues’ (Primates 22:474–486, 1981) hypothesis that the principal advantage of SPs over open-branch sleeping sites is the greater stability required by large-bodied great apes.


Chimpanzee Nest Sleep Morphology Evolution Methodology Structure 



I thank the Government of Uganda, particularly the National Research Council and Uganda Wildlife Authority. For invaluable logistical and financial support, I would like to thank TSWR Warden Chris Oryema, Chief Warden Charles Tumwesigye, Keith Hoskin, Nadia Strydom, and staff at the Semliki Wildlife Reserve for essential assistance. I am grateful to Matt Baldwin for instruction regarding arborist climbing techniques. I gratefully acknowledge the David C. Skomp Award and the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University for financial support. For critical comments, I would like to thank Kevin Hunt, August Costa, and Blaire Hensley-Marschand. I would like to thank Bill McGrew for critical comments on this manuscript as well as one anonymous reviewer. I thank Linda Marchant, and Jeanne Sept for inspirational discourse on the nature of chimpanzee sleeping platforms. Finally, thanks to Stephanie Dickinson and the Indiana Statistical Consulting Center (ISCC) for helpful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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