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article imagePopulation of chimpanzees fashion drinking sticks

By Tim Sandle     Jan 10, 2017 in Environment
A population of chimpanzees in the Ivory Coast have been observed fashioning tools to use as drinking sticks. The findings provide further evidence about different subcultures within chimpanzee populations.
One fascinating observation about chimpanzees is the way populations in different regions form different subcultures, whether this relates to differing forms of communication, rituals or with the development of tools. The new findings adds weight to the primates adapting to different conditions and also draws further similarities between early human societies and our closest primate cousins.
The new observations show chimpanzees habitually making special water-dipping sticks. They render these by chewing the end of the stick in order to make it into a soft, water-absorbing brush. These fashioned sticks are then used as "dipping sticks", to be placed into water to allow the chimps to drink, a little like straws. These allowed the chimps to extract water from narrow holes in trees.
The species of chimpanzee observed was Pan troglodytes ssp. verus. These chimpanzees are listed as endangered. This is a consequence of poaching, and loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation, each resulting from human activities. Four subspecies of chimpanzee are recognized: the Western Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (P. t. ellioti), the Central Chimpanzee (P. t. troglodytes), and the Eastern Chimpanzee (P. t. schweinfurthii).
Chimpanzees in other communities have been observed using sticks to dip into bees nests in order to extract honey. However, the use of sticks to suck water for drinking had not previously been noted.
It was also noted variations with the sticks, with the chimpanzees who could fashion the longest sticks being more successful for these sticks obtained more water.
In an interview with BBC Nature, the scientist who led to expedition — Dr. Juan Lapuente and who is based at from the Comoe Chimpanzee Conservation Project – said: “the use of brush-tipped sticks to dip for water is completely new and had never been described before. These chimps use especially long brush tips that they make specifically for water - much longer than those used for honey."
The observations and commentary are published in the American Journal of Primatology. The research paper is titled “Fluid dipping technology of chimpanzees in Comoé National Park, Ivory Coast.”
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