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Active participation in group-hunts earns wild chimpanzees meat access


Wild chimpanzees of the Taï National Park, Ivory Coast, hunt in groups to catch monkeys. By observing group-hunts and meat sharing, an international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, found that chimpanzee hunting behavior is a cooperative act that earns participants a fair share of the prey.

Active participation in group-hunts earns wild chimpanzees meat access
Prey catchers shared more frequently with hunters than non-hunters
[Credit: Liran Samuni, Tai Chimpanzee Project]
"Chimpanzee hunting success increased when more chimpanzees participated in the hunt or in joint prey searches prior to the start of a hunt", says Liran Samuni of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and first author of the study. "The sharing of meat following successful hunts encouraged hunt participation, as prey catchers shared more frequently with hunters than non-hunters, despite similar begging attempts."


Furthermore, the researchers found that chimpanzee hunting behavior was associated with the activation of oxytocin, a neuro-hormone established as a facilitator of cooperative behavior in humans and other animals. Oxytocin activation during chimpanzee hunting is a potential mechanism facilitating cooperative hunting. "Our new study provides strong support for the cooperative nature of hunting behavior in some wild chimpanzees, likely facilitated by neuroendocrine and behavioral mechanisms", says senior author Roman Wittig.

Like with humans, hunting success is likely motivation and performance dependent, with little guarantee that the effort invested in hunting will pay off. A mechanism in which active hunt participants that did not catch the prey are still rewarded with meat, a highly valuable food source, supports future cooperation to potentially increase performance.


The sharing of meat ensures a more predictable meat accessibility throughout the year, which could have shaped human brain development and life history traits. If cooperation in hunting and meat accessibility have shaped humans' life history traits, this study indicates that similar selection pressures may also operate in shaping life history traits in chimpanzees, say the researchers.

The study is published in Communications Biology.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology [September 10, 2018]

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1 comment :

  1. Very interesting, but this says nothing about human ancestors: chimps hunt without tools, running on 4 legs, and not on savannahs, but in the forests. Sharing of meat did not shape "human brain development and life history traits". Very large brains are seen in (semi)aquatic mammals: our ancestors' brains enlarged, when early-Pleistocene archaic Homo dispersed intercontinentally, due to the rich brain-specific nutrients of littoral foods, such as DHA & taurine (S.Cunnana 2005 "Survival of the Fattest"), they followed the African & Eurasian coasts & rivers, and even reached NE.China as early as 2.1 Ma (google: Ape and Human Evolution 2018 biology vs anthropocentrism).

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