Humans have been using tools for thousands of years; we’ve found ways to craft them out of the elements that make up our environment. But humans aren’t the only ones.
Chimpanzees have similar qualities in terms of intelligence and resourcefulness, and will utilize tools to get their jobs done, especially when hunger is on the line.
Image Credit: Tiago Falótico
Following a seven-year study that involved a collaboration between researchers at the University of Neuchâtel and the University of Geneva, it was found that chimpanzees who do more travelling for food are more likely to pick up a tool to help them, whether it’s a stick, log, or even a stone.
The study went on to see what kinds of tools the chimpanzees were interested in, and more importantly, the motivating factor that made chimpanzees want to use tools to help them. The findings are published in the journal eLife.
“We analyzed seven years of field experiments where chimpanzees had to try to extract honey enclosed in a wooden log (commonly called ‘honey-trap experiment’),” explained Thibaud Gruber, the study's first author. “We wanted to understand what external factors explained their motivation to participate in this experiment.”
For other primate species, being lazy and not moving around as much meant not having as much interest in tool usage. Of course, by limiting their access to ripe fruits, it was found that they would have more interest in using something in their vicinity of reach as a tool when they had to go exploring to find food.
"We didn't expect travel to be that important, and were surprised that it had an even greater influence than if they fed less on their preferred food of ripe fruits," says Gruber.
Without a doubt, those that had to do more travelling had more interest in using tools. From an evolutionary standpoint, being out and about in unfamiliar territory means you want to have the upper edge if threats arise, and tools also help reduce the workload when you're already using energy to move around.
Early humans may have evolved in a similar fashion, as hunter-gatherers were far more likely to be carrying tools to help them on their quest for hunting for food than other classes of humans in the day.
Humans and monkeys aren’t the only animals that are known to carry tools to help them; even birds, which are believed to be intelligent creatures, have been noted to use tools to help them scavenge food from the wild surroundings.
Source: EurekAlert, Science Daily