The table culture of chimpanzee fishing for termites

Chimpanzees are mainly distributed in the tropical rain forests near the equator in Africa. They live in groups, usually led by a male chimpanzee. Chimpanzees are known to be the smartest animals other than humans. They can make and use simple tools to complete more complex tasks. In the beginning, it was generally believed that only humans could make and use tools until they discovered the behavior of chimpanzees fishing for termites.

In order to eat termites, the chimpanzee would break a small branch from the tree, remove the leaves, and then put one end of the branch into the termite nest like a fishing rod, and wait for the soldiers in the ant nest to climb up the fishing rod and pick it up. Eat it in your mouth. Originally, people thought that the chimpanzee’s technique of fishing termites was single, but this view was overturned with the publication of a paper.

In May 2020, Christopher Bosch and other researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany published a paper in the international academic journal “Nature·Human Behavior”, describing in detail the chimpanzee The diversity of termite fishing table culture. They used cameras to continuously monitor 46 ethnic groups in the chimpanzee distribution area for 8 years. Among them, 1463 videos of 10 ethnic groups showed termite fishing behavior. After analysis, the researchers found that chimpanzees of different ethnic groups have different termite fishing table cultures, which are mainly reflected in different elements such as tool types, tool modification and operating skills.

The most obvious difference is the choice of termite nests. Among the three thousand species of termites that have been discovered in the world, some will form towering termite mounds on the ground, while others just build nests underground. According to the different types of termite nests, chimpanzee fishing for termites is divided into three sects accordingly: above-ground sect, underground sect, and “two-faced sect” with both above-ground and underground sects.

Chimpanzees on the ground will use a slender branch to go deep into the passage of the termite mound, and when the soldier ants bite the branch, they will be hooked out and eaten. According to the softness and hardness of the branches used, whether the branches are modified and the specific operation techniques, the ground faction can be divided into six small factions. For example, most Kayan chimpanzees like to use hard branches to catch termites. They will bite the ends of the branches before using them to modify their tools. After catching termites, the chimps will send the branches to their mouths with one hand and eat them. The Chimpanzee of Gualugo only chooses hard branches to catch termites, and will use fingers to open the nest channel. When eating termites, they like to catch the termites from the branches with one hand and put them in their mouths.

The tools used by the underground chimpanzees to catch termites are more complicated than those on the ground. They use two sticks of different thicknesses. First, use a thick stick to break a hole in the ground to expose the termite nest, and then use a thin stick to fish. termite. The termite fishing table culture of underground chimpanzees can be further divided into six small factions. For example, Belgian chimpanzees like to sit and fish for termites. Before fishing for termites, they like to slap at different positions above the ant colony with thick branches, which seems to be judging where to start based on the sound or texture. When eating termites, they usually put their arms in front of their mouths and eat termites on their wrists and forearms; while Wangawang pie chimpanzees like to lie on their sides and insert branches into the nest along their elbows to eat termites. At times, they move their heads and move their mouths to the branches to eat termites, and they will share their own termite-fishing branches with their offspring.

In addition, the researchers found that the termite fishing table culture is passed down and accumulated by chimpanzees of each ethnic group from generation to generation. When the chimpanzee learns to catch termites, he will learn the skills of catching termites through his elders’ “experience” with his strong imitation ability. Individual chimpanzees may also add some new elements of their own invention to improve the termite fishing culture. This process is like the evolution of human culture, which is another important reason for the cultural diversity of the chimpanzee fishing termite table.