One more word on, and a video of, chimps hunting with spears

Two more things about the chimps using spears to hunt other primates.

Firstly, it looks like Christopher Mims is just as unsurprised as I have been about the news of the chimps using spears to hunt. He outlines why, in the form of what we already know about chimpanzees. I skimmed over these reasons, so here’s his list, albeit a bit truncated (you should check out his list for examples):

  1. They use objects in their environment as tools.
  2. Chimpanzees modify objects in order to make them more effective tools.
  3. Tool use varies from one population of chimps to another–in other words, chimps exhibit variations in culture.
  4. Chimps learn by observation and practice how to make and use tools–in part, they learn by imitation.

Amidst all this press and blogosphere hype it is good to have a voice of reason to outline that this is not particularly breakthrough research. All the other work both Christopher and I mentioned supports the fact that chimps are capable of this behavior, if not more.

The only truly extraordinary aspect of this finding is if chimps are really making spears, with a sidenote that females are hunting with spears more than males.
Which is the second thing I wanted to address in this post. The paper mentions the Savanna chimps exhibited spear making over 20 times, however they include only 1 image of a spear. You’d think they’d have several examples of spears, no? Also, the video I linked up didn’t quite capture the hunt. This is a bit curious.

I’ve uploaded the various clips the authors provided in the supplemental materials to the paper over on YouTube. You can judge for yourself what you see or don’t see. Here it is:

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