Chimpanzees are known to use tools, but recent research shows that when it comes to smashing nuts with pebbles, they require a little help from their friends. It has questioned whether problem-solving through the medium of smash boulder is a learned or innate activity, but these new findings support the notion that this complicated behavior is learned from others. The new study, which was published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, conducted field tests to figure out what it takes a chimp to learn to split nuts with a rock.
The study’s primatologists monitored chimps in Seringbara, Guinea’s Nimba Mountains, to see if chimp nut cracking might occur under the correct circumstances. Palm nuts and stones, palm fruit bunches, cracked palm nuts, and Coula nuts and stones are the ingredients for a cracking nut party. The hypothesis was that if given the correct tools and treats, the innate habit of breaking down difficult but delectable food items with pebbles as tools would emerge.
The wild chimps did indeed show up at the nut parties, but there was no nut cracking. The researchers gave 35 chimps a year to acquaint themselves with the experimental items, not wanting to rush invention. The nut-rock buffet was thoroughly inspected by 11 of the animals studied, and they appeared to be more eager to explore when they arrived in large groups. Only one female chimp ever observed eating the palm fruit, and no one attempted to break or consume the oil palm or Coula nuts.
As a result, the team’s conclusion is that, at least for the Seringbara chimps, nut-cracking tool use necessitates social learning, not just the correct ecological conditions. This demonstrates that cultural conduct is similar to some human behaviors in that it must passed down through the generations rather than invented spontaneously. In a statement, lead scientist Kathelijne Koops said, “Our findings suggest that chimps learn cultural habits more like humans and do not simply originate a complicated tool use behavior like nut-cracking on their own.”
“Our results on wild chimps, our closest living cousins, help to shed light on what makes human civilization distinctive (and what doesn’t!).” They specifically propose that there is more continuity between chimp and human cultural evolution than is commonly supposed and that humans’ ability for cumulative culture may have evolved in tandem with chimps.”