Quirks and Quarks

Why Chimps are Handy But Bonobos Aren't

Chimpanzees are accomplished tool users but the closely related bonobo is more socially, and less technically minded.

One of the species uses tools, one doesn't

A chimpanzee uses tools to crack nuts (Cornelia Schrauf, Josep Call, Koki Fuwa and Satoshi Hirata, cc-by-sa-2.5)
Chimpanzees and bonobos are closely related to each other on the evolutionary tree, and both are closely related to humans. But chimps and bonobos differ greatly in the way they use tools, particularly for foraging.

A new study by Dr. Kathelijne Koops, a Lecturer in Biological Anthropology at Cambridge University, and a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of Zurich, has provided insight into the difference.

When environmental and social opportunities for tool use were ruled out as reasons, the focus shifted to young chimps and bonobos. Young chimps have an innate predispostion to manipulate objects, which explains later tool use. Young bonobos are more social, and would rather play with others or stay close to their mothers than pick up potential tools, such as sticks or rocks.

Related Links

Paper in Nature Scientific Reports
- University of Cambridge release