Female Chimps: The Mighty Hunters

From Kenneth Oakley’s 1957 book

Man the Tool-Maker


One may sum up by saying that apes of the present day are capable of perceiving the solution of a visible problem, and occasionally improvising a tool to meet a given situation; but to conceive the idea of shaping a stone or stick for use in an imagined future eventuality is beyond the mental capacity of any known apes. Possession of a great capacity for this conceptual thinking, in contrast to the mainly perceptual thinking of apes and other primates is generally regarded by comparative psychologists as distinctive of man. Systematic making of tools implies a marked capacity for conceptual thought.

we have known for quite a while that a wide variety of animals make and/or use tools. We also know that tool use goes back in time quite a ways (evidence has been found, for example, of termite fishing sticks used by robust australopithecines).
The above item, however, represents something more than just a termite fishing stick. As Carl points out hunting has been considered a prime mover in human evolution and stereotypically, has always been considered a male activity. The above picture is of a thrusting spear used by female chimpanzees to hunt bush babies. Since a number of other ScienceBloggers have already covered this in some detail I don’t have much to say on it (other than to point out how wonderful science is). Darren mentions a National Geographic Video, which can be found here and Carl links to these videos.

One Response

  1. Further cementing the ideas of the “Woman the Gatherer” model regarding females and tool use. And idea, BTW, that dates back now 35 years, to Sally Linton’s paper (she was a grad student at the time, I believe) and carried through the work of Nancy Tanner and Adrienne Zihlman (who I see has been quoted re the story in some of the news pieces).

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