Human Nature

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 27–46 | Cite as

Cooperative hunting roles among taï chimpanzees

  • Christophe Boesch


All known chimpanzee populations have been observed to hunt small mammals for meat. Detailed observations have shown, however, that hunting strategies differ considerably between populations, with some merely collecting prey that happens to pass by while others hunt in coordinated groups to chase fast-moving prey. Of all known populations, Taï chimpanzees exhibit the highest level of cooperation when hunting. Some of the group hunting roles require elaborate coordination with other hunters as well as precise anticipation of the movements of the prey. The meat-sharing rules observed in this community guarantee the largest share of the meat to hunters who perform the most important roles leading to a capture. The learning time of such hunting roles is sometimes especially long. Taï chimpanzee males begin hunting monkeys at about age 10. The hunters’ progress in learning the more sophisticated hunting roles is clearly correlated with age; only after 20 years of practice are they able to perform them reliably. This lengthy learning period has also been shown in some hunter-gatherer societies and confirms the special challenge that hunting represents.

Key words

Chimpanzee Hunting Cooperation Sharing 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Axelrod, R., and W. D. Hamilton 1981 The Evolution of Cooperation. Science 211:1390–1396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boesch, C. 1994a Chimpanzees-Red Colobus: A Predator-Prey System. Animal Behaviour 47:1135–1148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 1994b Cooperative Hunting in Wild Chimpanzees. Animal Behaviour 48:653–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boesch, C., and H. Boesch 1989 Hunting Behavior of Wild Chimpanzees in the Taï National Park. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 78:547–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boesch, C., and H. Boesch-Achermann 2000 The Chimpanzees of the Taï Forest: Behavioural Ecology and Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Busse, C. 1978 Do Chimpanzees Hunt Cooperatively? American Naturalist 112:767–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Caro, T. M. 1994 Cheetahs of the Serengeti Plains: Group Living in an Asocial Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chalmeau, R. 1994 Do Chimpanzees Cooperate in a Learning Task? Primates 35:385–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chalmeau, R., E. Visalberghi, and A. Gallo 1997 Capuchin Monkeys, Cebus apella, Fail to Understand a Cooperative Task. Animal Behaviour 54:1215–1225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clements, K., and D. Stephens 1995 Testing Models of Non-kin Cooperation: Mutualism and the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Animal Behaviour 50:527–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cooper, S. M. 1991 Optimal Hunting Group Size: The Need for Lions to Defend Their Kills Against Loss to Spotted Hyenas. African Journal of Ecology 29:130–136.Google Scholar
  12. Creel, S. 1997 Cooperative Hunting and Group Size: Assumptions and Currencies. Animal Behaviour 54:1319–1324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Creel, S., and N. M. Creel 1995 Communal Hunting and Pack Size in African Wild Dogs, Lycaon pictus. Animal Behaviour 50:1325–1339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dugatkin, L. 1997 Cooperation among Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Estes, R. D., and J. Goddard 1967 Prey Selection and Hunting Behavior of the African Wild Dog. Journal of Wildlife Management 31:52–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fanshawe, J. H., and C. D. Fitzgibbon 1993 Factors Influencing the Hunting Success of an African Wild Dog Pack. Animal Behaviour 45:479–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goodall, J. 1986 The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Havard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hamilton, W. D. 1964 The Genetical Theory of Social Behavior (I and II). Journal of Theoretical Biology 7:1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hare, B., J. Call, B. Agnetta, and M. Tomasello 2000 Chimpanzees Know What Conspecifics Do and Do Not See. Animal Behaviour 59(4):771–785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hare, B., J. Call, and M. Tomasello 2001 Do Chimpanzees Know What Conspecifics Know? Animal Behaviour 61:139–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hill, Kim 2002 Altruistic Cooperation during Foraging by the Ache, and the Evolved Human Predisposition to Cooperate. Human Nature 13:105–128.Google Scholar
  22. Kaplan, H., K. Hill, J. Lancaster, and A. Hurtado 2000 A Theory of Human Life History Evolution: Diet, Intelligence and Longevity. Evolutionary Anthropology 9:156–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kruuk, H. 1972 The Spotted Hyena. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Kuroda, S., S. Suzuki, and T. Nishihara 1996 Preliminary Report on Predatory Behavior and Meat Sharing in Tschego Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) in the Ndoki Forest, Northern Congo. Primates 37:253–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Maynard Smith, J. 1982 Evolution and the Theory of Games. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Mech, D. L. 1970 The Wolf. New York: Natural History Press.Google Scholar
  27. McGrew, W. 1992 Chimpanzee Material Culture: Implications for Human Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Mills, M. G. L. 1990 Kalahari Hyenas: The Comparative Behavioural Ecology of Two Species. London: Chapman and Hall.Google Scholar
  29. Mitani, J., and D. Watts 1999 Demographic Influences on the Hunting Behavior of Chimpanzees. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 109:439–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mitani, J., D. Watts, and J. Lwanga in press Ecological and Social Correlates of Chimpanzee Party Size and Composition. In Behavioural Diversity in Chimpanzees and Bonobos, C. Boesch, G. Hohmann, and L. Marchant, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Nishida, T., S. Uehara, and R. Nyondo 1983 Predatory Behavior among Wild Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains. Primates 20:1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nishida, T., T. Hasegawa, H. Hayaki, Y. Takahata, and S. Uehara 1992 Meat-sharing as a Coalition Strategy by an Alpha Male Chimpanzee? In Human Origins, T. Nishida, W. C. McGrew, P. Marler, M. Pickford, and F. de Waal, eds. Pp. 159–174. Topics in Primatology, vol. 1. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press.Google Scholar
  33. Packer, C., and T. Caro 1997 Foraging Costs in Social Carnivores. Animal Behaviour 54:1317–1318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Packer, C., D. Scheel, and A. E. Pusey 1990 Why Lions Form Groups: Food Is Not Enough. American Naturalist 136: 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Savage-Rumbaugh, E. S., D. M. Rumbaugh, and S. Boysen 1978 Linguistically Mediated Tool Use and Exchange by Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Behavioral and Brain Sciences 201:641–644.Google Scholar
  36. Schaller, G. B. 1972 The Serengeti Lion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  37. Scheel, D., and C. Packer 1991 Group Hunting Behaviour of Lions: A Search for Cooperation. Animal Behaviour 41:697–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stander, P. E. 1992 Cooperative Hunting in Lions: The Role of the Individual. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 29:445–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stanford, C. 1998 Chimpanzee and Red Colobus: The Ecology of Predator and Prey. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Stanford, C., J. Wallis, H. Matama, and J. Goodall 1994 Patterns of Predation by Chimpanzees on Red Colobus Monkeys in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, 1982–1991. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 94:213–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Strum, S. C. 1981 Processes and Products of Change: Baboon Predatory Behavior at Gilgil, Kenya. In Omnivorous Primates: Gathering and Hunting in Human Evolution, R. S. O. Harding and G. Teleki, eds. Pp. 255–302. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Takahata, Y., T. Hasegawa, and T. Nishida 1984 Chimpanzee Predation in the Mahale Mountains from August 1979 to May 1982. International Journal of Primatology 5:213–233.Google Scholar
  43. Teleki, G. 1973 The Predatory Behavior of Wild Chimpanzees. Brunswick: Bucknell University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Trivers, R. L. 1971 The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism. Quarterly Review of Biology 46: 35–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Uehara, S., T. Nishida, M. Hamai, T. Hasegawa, H. Hayaki, M. Huffman, K. Kawanaka, S. Kobayashi, J. Mitani, Y. Takahata, H. Takasaki, and T. Tsukahara 1992 Characteristics of Predation by the Chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. In Human Origins, T. Nishida, W. C. McGrew, P. Marler, M. Pickford, and F. de Waal, eds. Pp. 143–158. Topics in Primatology, vol. 1. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press.Google Scholar
  46. Van Orsdol, K. G. 1984 Foraging behaviour and hunting success of lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. African Journal of Ecolology 22:79–99.Google Scholar
  47. Whitten, A. 2000 Chimpanzee Cognition and the Question of Mental Re-representation. In Metarepresentations: A Multidisciplinary Perspective, D. Sperber, ed. Pp. 1–29. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

Personalised recommendations