Researchers have identified a variety of stone tools for chimpanzees to crack different types of nuts

A female chimpanzee breaks a panda oleosa using a granodiorite stone on a wooden anvil (the root of a panda tree). Image Credit: © Liran Samuni, The Taï Chimpanzee . Project

During fieldwork documenting the use of stone tools for a group of wild chimpanzees in the Tau forest in Côte d’Ivoire in early 2022, researchers identified and 3D-scanned a variety of stone tools used to crack and scan different species of walnut. Their study has now been published in Royal Society of Open Science.

It has long been proven that different groups of chimpanzees have different cultures of tool use including wood and stone tools; However, only some groups in West Africa use stone tools to break open nuts. By comparing 3D models of different stone tools used by chimpanzee In the Tau forest for those of another group in Guinea, researchers have shown that there are marked differences between the two groups in terms of their material culture.

The study shows that this particular group of Guinea chimpanzees use stone hammers varying in stone type and sizes, and very large stone anvils, sometimes over one meter in length. These durable stone tools are widespread throughout the landscape; It maintains various levels of damage associated with its use and is a permanent record of chimpanzee behaviour.

The stone tools used for cracking walnuts can vary between groups of chimpanzees

This study highlights the fact that although several groups of chimpanzees practice nut cracking, the tools they use can differ greatly from one another, which can lead to group-specific physical signatures. These differences result from a combination of stone selection, stone availability, and the types of nuts eaten.

Diversity of chimpanzee stone tool

Examples of chimpanzee hammer stones from Djoro, Côte d’Ivoire; Indicates textured surface, 3D surface, surface depth, and surface gradation. Credit: © Tomos Proffitt

Previous research has shown that using stone tools, some groups of chimpanzees are developing their own archaeological record dating back at least 4,300 years. “The ability to identify regional differences in the material culture of stone tools in primates opens up a range of possibilities for future archaeological studies on primates,” says Tomos Profitt of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, who led the research.

It has been hypothesized that a simple technology, such as cracking walnuts, was a precursor to more complex stone techniques during the early stages of our evolution over three million years ago. Proffitt continues, “By understanding what this simple stone tool technology looks like, and how it differs between groups, we can begin to understand how to better identify this signature in the earliest hominins.” archaeological record. ”

Chimpanzees did not enter the Stone Age

more information:
Identification of functional and regional differences in chimpanzee stone tool technique, Royal Society of Open Science (2022). DOI: 10.1098 / rsos.220826.

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