Chimpanzees living in Côte d’Ivoire use tactics that have so far been attributed only to humans. From the tops of the hills they observe the movements of enemy chimpanzee herds. According to scientists, such an action has never been known in the animal world before.
An international team of scientists conducted a three-year study of two neighboring herds of common chimpanzees (Mr. troglodytes) in Côte d’Ivoire. They tracked the primates as they wandered through their own territories, including a border area where skirmishes occurred from time to time.
Researchers found that chimpanzees were more than twice as likely to climb hills when they were moving toward a contested territory than when they were moving into their own territory. Sitting on the tops of the border hills, the animals were more likely to refrain from loud behavior and spend time in peace. This allowed them to better hear the distant sounds of alien groups.
Scientists note that the tactic of observing the movements of hostile herds is known only to humans. An article on this subject was published in early November in “PLOS Biology”.
Territory control by chimpanzees
Scientists believe that in this way chimpanzees try to avoid potentially dangerous confrontations with hostile groups. If observers come to the conclusion that no foreign group is feeding in a given territory, they decide to enter the observed area.
Other mammal species, such as meerkats, use high ground to look out for predators or call for mates. But scientists say this is the first evidence that a non-human animal strategically uses high ground to assess the risk of conflict between groups.
– The use of landscape for territorial control is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history. Chimpanzees’ use of this strategy may be a foreshadowing of the small-scale wars that likely existed in prehistoric hunter-gatherer populations, explains lead author Sylvain Lemoine of the University of Cambridge in the UK.
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