Observations of hunting and meat eating in our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, suggest that regular inclusion of meat in the diet is not a characteristic unique to Homo. Wild chimpanzees are known to consume vertebrate meat, but its actual dietary contribution is often unknown.
Gifted adult male hunter Brutus holds out meat for the less successful, and uninterested, hunter Kendo while a female looks on. © MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology/Christophe Boesch
Constraints on continual direct observation throughout the entire hunting season mean that behavioural observations are limited in their ability to accurately quantify meat consumption. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has now compared stable isotope data of wild chimpanzee hair keratin and bone collagen with behavioural observations and found that, in chimpanzees, hunting and meat-eating is male-dominated. These new results support previous behavioural observations of chimpanzees in Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire.Researchers analysed a wide range of environmental samples from Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire, to construct an isotopic baseline of the chimpanzee habitat. These environmental samples also included components of the chimpanzees’ diet, such as fruits and seasonal supplements of nuts, ants and termites, and colobus monkey.
PNAS, Early Online Edition, 25 March 2013
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