Researchers have discovered female chimpanzees that are making and wielding spears out in the wild to hunt.
Researchers from the Iowa State University have discovered female chimpanzees in Fongoli, Senegal, wielding spears for hunting. Researchers now believe that the finding could also lead to a new understanding of the development of our own species.
The research, which was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, builds on an earlier study, which was conducted by Jill Pruetz. In the earlier study Pruetz found female chimpanzees hunting with tools. However, the study wasn’t taken seriously as the sample size was small then. So the researchers then documented over 300 hunts of chimpanzees that were done utilizing spears and other instruments. This study was conducted over a period of eight years.
The researchers found that male chimpanzees make up 60% of the chimpanzees in the study group, yet they undertook just 40% of the hunting expeditions. They also generally used their hands to capture and kill prey, while females were found to use tools quite often on the hunt.
“It’s just another example of diversity in chimp behavior that we keep finding the longer we study wild chimps. It is more the exception than the rule that you’ll find some sort of different behavior, even though we’ve studied chimps extensively,” added Jill Pruetz, anthropologist, primatologist and a professor at the Iowa State University, and the lead author of the study.
The researchers don’t know the reason behind this behavior. However, they believe that the social structure amongst the chimpanzees from Fongoli allows this.
Pruetz explained, “At Fongoli, when a female or low-ranking male captures something, they’re allowed to keep it and eat it. At other sites, the alpha male or other dominant male will come along and take the prey. So there’s little benefit of hunting for females, if another chimp is just going to take their prey item.”
The researchers stated that they will conduct further studies to see if this behavior can be linked to the adoption of tools by distant human ancestors.