Learning curves and teaching when acquiring nut-cracking in humans and chimpanzees

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Boesch, Christophe; Bombjaková, Daša; Meier, Amelia; Mundry, Roger
Year of Publication: 2019
Journal: Scientific Reports
Volume: 9
Issue: 1
Pagination: 1515
Date Published: 2019/02/06
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 2045-2322

Humans are considered superior to other species in their tool using skills. However, most of our knowledge about animals comes from observations in artificial conditions with individuals removed from their natural environment. We present a first comparison of humans and chimpanzees spontaneously acquiring the same technique as they forage in their natural environment. We compared the acquisition of the Panda nut-cracking technique between Mbendjele foragers from the Republic of Congo and the Taï chimpanzees from Côte d’Ivoire. Both species initially acquire the technique slowly with similar kinds of mistakes, with years of practice required for the apprentice to become expert. Chimpanzees more rapidly acquired the technique when an apprentice, and reached adult efficiency earlier than humans. Adult efficiencies in both species did not differ significantly. Expert-apprentice interactions showed many similar instances of teaching in both species, with more variability in humans due, in part to their more complex technique. While in humans, teaching occurred both vertically and obliquely, only the former existed in chimpanzees. This comparison of the acquisition of a natural technique clarifies how the two species differed in their technical intelligence. Furthermore, our observations support the idea of teaching in both species being more frequent for difficult skills.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-38392-8
Short Title: Scientific Reports
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