Ant Fishing in Trees: Invention and Modification of a New Tool-Use Behavior

  • Shinya Yamamoto
  • Gen Yamakoshi
  • Tatyana Humle
  • Tetsuro Matsuzawa
Part of the Primatology Monographs book series


Wild chimpanzees are known to have a different repertoire of tool-use unique to each community. For example, “ant-dipping” is a tool-use behavior known in several chimpanzee communities across Africa targeted at army ants (Dorylus spp.) on the ground, whereas “ant-fishing,” which is aimed at carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) in trees, has primarily been observed among the chimpanzees of Mahale in Tanzania. Although the evidence for differences between field sites is accumulating, we have little knowledge on how such “cultural” tool-use behaviors appear at each site and on how these are modified over time. In this chapter, we report “ant-fishing” by a young male chimpanzee at Bossou, Guinea, a behavior never before observed in this community during the past 27 years. This chimpanzee went on to modify this novel tool technology over the course of the following 2 years. At the age of 5, he employed wands of similar length to those used in ant-dipping on the ground, which is a customary tool-use behavior of this community. However, 2 years later, at the age of 7, his ant-fishing tools were shorter and the efficiency in obtaining carpenter ants was improved. This observation is a rare example of innovation in the wild and does provide some insights into the emergence and the learning process of a cultural behavior in chimpanzees.


Wild Chimpanzee Young Chimpanzee Short Tool Stick Tool Terrestrial Herbaceous Vegetation 
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This work was financially supported by MEXT and JSPS KAKENHI (#16002001, #20002001 to T.M.; #22800034 to S.Y.) and JSPS-HOPE, JSPS-gCOE (A06, D07), and a fund from the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (F-061). We are grateful to the Direction Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (DNRST), and the Institut de Recherche Environnementale de Bossou (IREB) of the Republic of Guinea for granting us permission to carry out this research and approving. We would also like to thank the people of Bossou, all the guides who helped during this research period, and also Mr. B. Bolton, Dr. C. Schöning, Dr. B. Taylor, and Dr. S. Yamane for identifying the ant samples. Dr. Y. Sugiyama and many other colleagues kindly supported our fieldwork and gave us useful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shinya Yamamoto
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gen Yamakoshi
    • 3
  • Tatyana Humle
    • 4
  • Tetsuro Matsuzawa
    • 1
  1. 1.Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityInuyamaJapan
  2. 2.Great Ape Research InstituteHayashibara Biochemical Laboratories, Inc.TamanoJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of Asian and African Area StudiesKyoto UniversitySakyo-kuJapan
  4. 4.School of Anthropology and ConservationUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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