Chimpanzee Tool Use
Tool use was
once a defining characteristic that was only attributed to humans.
However, when Jane Goodall discovered that chimpanzees also use
tools, we learned that we were no longer special in our tool using
capabilities. Chimps all over Africa have been seen using a wide
variety of tools for many different tasks. Think about some of the
tools you use every day. Are there tools we as humans use that are
similar to those used by chimpanzees? Together we’ll discover some
of the really creative ways chimpanzees use the objects around them
to create tools.
of the tools that chimps make and use are actually geared towards
eating. Just as human cultures use different utensils for food, so
do different groups of chimps. Think about the utensils we humans
use to eat our food. In Asian countries it is usual for chopsticks
to be used, while in America forks and knives are common utensils.
What do you eat with at your house? We and chimpanzees are both very
similar in the ways we use and create tools for our benefit.
first discovered chimpanzees using tools to capture termites, which
were buried underground in sealed mounds of dirt called termite
mounds. She noticed that they would use two different sticks as
tools to acquire the protein rich insects.
The first thing chimps do is use a heavy stick to chisel a hole into
the termite mound to find an opening. The second tool they use is
much more refined than their chisel. The second stick is known as a
fishing tool and it is very special because they actually modify it
before using it. The chimpanzees find a straight stick or long blade
of grass and pull all of the leaves off of it, so that they can
easily fit the stick into the hole of the termite mound. Chimps are
much better at termite fishing than we are. Jane Goodall herself tried her hand at
termite fishing and couldn’t get nearly as many termites on the
stick as the chimps she was watching did. Tool modification is
extremely rare in the animal world which is yet another example of
how chimps and humans are so similar.
In another group
of chimps, different from the culture that Jane Goodall studied,
there was a discovery of a hammer and anvil
tool (top of page) being used to crack open hard nut shells. (An anvil is a hard
surface that is used to place something on while it is hit with a
hammer to crack it.) This is a perfect example of yet another
similarity between chimps and us humans. What do you use to crack
open nuts? We have all sorts of tools for nut cracking and they come
in a variety of shapes and sizes. Chimps use different sized rocks
as hammers to crush a hard nut on top of a larger rock, which is the
use different tools in different areas to drink water from holes in
trees. This water is often too deep for them to reach with their
mouths so they must find other ways to access it. In some places
chimps chew up leaves and spit them out to make an absorbent sponge
which they then use to suck up the water. When they take it out of
the tree it is full of water that can be easily sucked off of the
sponge. Other chimps use tools like a straw to drink water from
these holes. Chimpanzees are very creative when it comes to making
tools for all sorts of jobs.
Chimpanzees also hunt for their food just like
humans do. Although we don’t hunt as much as we used to, there are
still native people who use spears and bows and arrows to hunt for
their meat. Chimps have been seen creating and using primitive
spear-like tools to catch small nocturnal primates, which sleep in
the holes of trees. Because these holes tend to be
chimps cannot simply reach their hands down into them to get their
prey. These chimps have learned
how to create sharp spears with their teeth, which they can then
poke into these holes. The sticks are much longer than their arms
and therefore they can reach their prey.
Message from CAC'ers
When we were in Tanzania we saw many termite
mounds that chimps termite fish at. Some of them even had
left over tools that the chimps had used next to them! We
got to look at these tools up close!