Document Detail

Savanna chimpanzees use tools to harvest the underground storage organs of plants.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  18032604     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
It has been hypothesized that plant underground storage organs (USOs) played key roles in the initial hominin colonization of savanna habitats, the development of the distinctive skull and tooth morphology of the genus Australopithecus, and the evolution of the genus Homo by serving as "fallback foods" exploited during periods of food shortage. These hypotheses have been tested mostly by morphological, isotopic, and microwear analyses of hominin bones and teeth. Archaeological evidence of USO digging technology is equivocal. Until now relevant data from studies of chimpanzees, useful in behavioral models of early hominins because of their phylogenetic proximity and anatomical similarities, have been lacking. Here we report on the first evidence of chimpanzees using tools to dig for USOs, suggesting that exploitation of such resources was within the cognitive and technological reach of the earliest hominins. Consistent with scenarios of hominin adaptation to savannas, these data come from Ugalla (Tanzania), one of the driest, most open and seasonal chimpanzee habitats. USOs are, however, exploited during the rainy season, well after the period of most likely food shortage, contradicting the specific prediction of fallback food hypotheses. The discovery that savanna chimpanzees use tools to obtain USOs contradicts yet another claim of human uniqueness and provides a model for the study of variables influencing USO use among early hominins.
R Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar; Jim Moore; Travis Rayne Pickering
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.     Date:  2007-11-21
Journal Detail:
Title:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America     Volume:  104     ISSN:  1091-6490     ISO Abbreviation:  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.     Publication Date:  2007 Dec 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2007-12-12     Completed Date:  2008-01-18     Revised Date:  2010-09-15    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  7505876     Medline TA:  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  19210-3     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Anthropology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0032, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Behavior, Animal*
Feeding Behavior*
Pan troglodytes / psychology*
Plant Roots
Comment In:
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Dec 4;104(49):19167-8   [PMID:  18048319 ]

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