Day By Day

Friday, February 23, 2007

Killer Apes

Primatologists report observing chimpanzees living in an area with limited food resources have adapted to their situation by fashioning spears and using these tools to kill and eat other primates.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chimpanzees have been seen using spears to hunt bush babies, U.S. researchers said on Thursday in a study that demonstrates a whole new level of tool use and planning by our closest living relatives.
And a couple of other theoretical distinctions between humans and their nearest animal relatives crumble. Chimpanzees, like humans, are tool-making creatures with the capacity to visualize the future use of tools, and they also are "killer apes." Leaving aside the vacuous arguments of the animal rights advocates that will ensue from this discovery, these observations make it quite likely that tool use, planning for the future, and hunting behavior were part of the makeup of the common ancestor of humans and chimps. That, for evolutionary biologists, is a very interesting piece of information.
Perhaps even more intriguing, it was only the females who fashioned and used the wooden spears, Jill Pruetz and Paco Bertolani of Iowa State University reported.

Bertolani saw an adolescent female chimp use a spear to stab a bush baby as it slept in a tree hollow, pull it out and eat it.

This, too, is interesting. It shows that the hunting behavior and propensity for tool-making, usually attributed exclusively to males, was also shared by females. The researchers attribute the fact that only females have been observed making and using spears to the fact that they lack the unassisted physical prowess of males and are merely compensating for that deficiency in a resource scarce environment. But, I predict, feminists (like the animal rights crowd) are going to have a field day with this one.

Read the whole article here.

Kipling, of course, was way out ahead of the curve on this one when he wrote:

...when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other's tale -- The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Read the whole poem here.

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