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Cooperative hunting roles among taï chimpanzees

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Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Christophe Boesch.

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This project has been financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Max Planck Society. I thank Hedwige Boesch, Steve Steams, Duri Rungger, Toshisada Nishida, William McGrew, and two anonymous reviewers for commenting on the manuscript.

Christophe Boesch is director of the department of primatology in the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, and a professor at the University of Leipzig. He has studied wild chimpanzees since 1979, mainly in Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire, and his main interests are in the evolution of tool use, hunting, and animal culture, as well as documenting reproductive strategies of both sexes and social structure in great apes.

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Boesch, C. Cooperative hunting roles among taï chimpanzees. Hum Nat 13, 27–46 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-002-1013-6

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