Primatology Tells a New Story

The other day I wrote

Previously, primate groups were generally seen to be composed of harems, ignoring the active roles of females in mate choice and aggressive sexual behavior with multiple mates. But the entry of women with a feminist perspective into this field opened up the kinds of observations that were made.

Another great myth we've always had handed to us is that of Man the Hunter. Now comes evidence from the world of primatology that upsets that apple cart. Carl Zimmer at The Loom writes:

Today the journal Current Biology publishes yet another piece of the puzzle: female chimpanzees hunting with spears...

The sight of chimpanzees using tools is hardly new. They've been seen making probing sticks for snaring termites, using rocks to bang nuts, and so on. But it was surprising for a team of primatologists to see chimpanzees in Senegal using tools to hunt. On several occasions the scientists saw chimpanzees fashion sticks into spears, which they then rammed into tree hollows where little bushbabies were hiding. In one case, a chimpanzee successfully pinned down a bushbaby and was able to grab it and have a snack.

Carl's written a really excellent post on the whole "Man the Hunter" myth and the reality which is much more complex and, I might add, more interesting. Do give it a read. You'll enjoy it.

More like this

Also this.... isnt getting press but it really needs to,

Our findings here indicate that male chimpanzees base their hunting decisions on their assessment of whether they will be successful, pursuing prey only when adult male party size is large and the probability of capture is therefore high. Additional observations dispel the popular idea that male chimpanzees share meat with females in order to obtain matings with them. Instead, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that males share meat in order to curry the favor and support of other males. At Ngogo, male chimpanzees are likely to hunt when accompanied by other males. Males share meat non-randomly and reciprocally among themselves, and males exchange meat for support in fights.


That and the hunting female bonobos with female dominance hierarchy should really change the way people look at apes.

By Carpenter (not verified) on 24 Feb 2007 #permalink

BTW Im surprised ppl are so surprised that females are using tools, most chimp tool use is by females. Im also surprised ppl are so surprised females are hunting. Females hunt inmost human societies if the idealized role has them hunting or not. Its long been known female chimps hunt and that female bonobos hunt. I think this is one of those times when the public is waaaaaay ahead of the press. Did anyone seiorsly think only men invented tools and hunted? Really?

By Carpenter (not verified) on 24 Feb 2007 #permalink