Animal Cognition
Home Page




Stimulus Control

Space & Time

Operant Conditioning

Complex Behavior

General Links

Dr. Robert Cook's Home Page

Return to Tool Use in Animals Page

Avian Use of Tools Page

Created by Lauren Kosseff

monk.gif (284408 bytes)                                                                                      PRIMTITLE1.gif (10128 bytes)


primt2.gif (2314 bytes)

While manipulating poles in their play, the chimpanzees learned to use the poles to escape from their enclosure.  One chimp spontaneously utilized the pole in order to368-2.gif (78079 bytes) obtain something from a high shelf.  From the example of this chimp's use of the pole as a tool, the other chimps learned the use of the poles for escaping.  The group learning of these chimpanzees illustrates the importance of imitation in learning and tool use.  This behavior is included as tool use because, although it occurred in captivity, it was not the result of imitation or observation of human activity.

The researchers observed that the chimpanzees were very selective about the poles which they used as climbing tools.  They discarded old pieces of wood which might break, ones which were too long and cumbersome for carrying, and ones which were too short.  Chimps show sophisticated tool use in that they can modify objects to form tools.  For example, they have been observed joining two sticks together to make a longer tool for reaching high places. 

In Tanzania, chimps construct tools from grass and twigs which they use to extract ants from their holes.  Wild chimps have also been observed using sticks to withdraw honey from beehives, dig up edible roots, and as levers to open boxes of bananas left by scientists.  Leaves are also used as tools by chimps for collecting water and for wiping mud, blood, and sticky fruit from their bodies.

The role of imitation in chimpanzee tool use is explained by research conducted by Jane Goodall.  Young chimps learn how to break twigs from trees, strip away the leaves, and insert them into termite holes by observing adults.  The steps required to extract termites in this manner are lengthy and complex.  Without the demonstrations of adults, many chimps would probably never become very successful termite fishers.  However, part of the acquisition of this tool use appears to relate to innate characteristics of chimpanzee behavior.  All young chimpanzees amuse themselves by playing with sticks and poking them into holes.   It seems as though the chimps are able to observe the more skilled adults and translate their juvenille play into a successful means for securing food.

Chimpanzees may venture as far as 90 meters from a termite hill in search of a tool to extract the termites.  Some chimpanzees also bring numerous sticks back to the termite mound to use as spares.  While termite or ant-fishing, the chimps stand on two feet, as far away from the nest as possible in order to avoid being bitten.  Another method which the chimps use to avoid being bitten is to insert the stick into the termite hole while elevated in a tree or vine.  Gombe chimpanzees have a special technique for determining whether a branch or termite mound is worth probing.  The Gombe chimps insert a blade of grass into the mound and determines the quantity of ants from the scent of the extracted blade.


yogurt.gif (119027 bytes)

Hooded monkeys demonstrate similar to those of the chimpanzees.  These monkeys were faced with the challenge of extracting yogurt from narrow plastic tubes.  The tubes were too small to probe with their fingers and were bolted to the table to prevent the monkeys from pouring out the contents.  The hooded monkeys cleverly fashioned spoons from pieces of wood which were available in the experiment room.