Friday, April 13, 2007

Chimps Using Caves

Savannah chimpanzees, which can make weapons to hunt other primates for meat, can also seek refuge in caves, much like our earliest human ancestors.
From Charles Q. Choi at LiveScience:
Researchers investigated the Fongoli community of 35 savannah chimpanzees in southeastern Senegal, one of the hottest and driest habitats chimps live in today. Pruetz and her colleagues recently found that Fongoli chimps apparently could manufacture spears to hunt other primates, such as bushbabies.

The research into chimpanzees' possible use of caves began when Pruetz's field assistant Mboule Camara saw the apes coming from Sakoto cave, the largest cavern within the chimp's home range. The cave is more than 15 feet deep and located at the head of a shallow ravine that was formed through water runoff from a plateau.

To determine why they might use the cave, Pruetz recorded temperature data within the cave as well as at the different habitats the chimpanzees used, such as the woodlands and grasslands. She discovered that chimps most often use the stone cave as shelter during the hottest and driest times of the year, from October to May, findings detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Primates. It is the first study to document regular cave use by chimps.