How Chimps Are Adapting to A Human-Dominated Planet

Chimp-tools-use

Adaptive behavior in other animals is not unheard of, but chimps are doing so in some of the most unexpected ways.

Many animals have made a place for themselves as humans expand their presence globally. Crows (a.k.a., “feathered apes”), for example, drop nuts on streets, let cars crack the shell, and then retrieve the nut (see video below).

In The Atlantic this week there is a story on the adaptive behavior of chimps who “are living right at the edge of where it’s possible for them to exist.” It’s a fantastic piece about the very complicated life of being one of the other few great apes on this planet vying for space among humans.

Human apes are constantly adapting to their world and adapting their world to them, and even seeking ways to adapt to other worlds like Mars. Meanwhile, on this planet, chimps are finding ways to adapt to what has become a foreign planet to them.

Here’s a few excerpts below. (See also my “The Chimpanzee Stone Age: You’re Living In It”.)

From savanna in Senegal there’s evidence of tool use of a different kind, akin to making weapons. Jill Pruetz, a biological anthropologist from Iowa State University, has documented the ways adult female chimps sharpen the ends of sticks with their teeth and use them to hunt small primates called galagos. “To find chimpanzees spearing bush babies—that’s outside of any expectation!” Matsuzawa exclaimed.

…There were plenty of surprising observations—sightings of chimps lounging in ponds to cool off (when they were supposed to be water phobic), picking crops in nearby human communities after sunset (though they were supposed to be afraid of the dark), and hanging out in caves, when nobody elsewhere on the continent had reported anything like it before.

“In Mali, they’re cooling off in caves,” Goodall said. “In Uganda, they learned to raid sugar cane at night…”

Read the full piece

Oh, and about those freakishly intelligent crows. See below…

Written by Brandon Withrow
Freelance writer (The Daily Beast, The Guardian, RNS, etc.). Author of 9 books. Adjunct lecturer in religious studies. Lover of science.