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A Savannah chimp eating a bush baby she caught with a spear

A Savannah chimp called Tumbo eating a bush baby she caught with a spear

Remember the Savannah chimps I wrote about last week, who use spears to hunt bush babies? I was reading up on these chimps to prepare myself for their inevitable uprising and found research showing they do something else often associated with human evolution: cave dwelling.

Despite the name Savannah chimps don’t live in the classic grassland Savannah. They actually inhabit nearby forests, which is still a unique chimp environment. Most prefer to live much deeper into the jungle. However, even though they don’t live on the open plains the temperatures there can still reach scorching heights. 38 degrees is the point at which heat becomes a problem for chimps and the forests can reach this during the hottest months (May & June). However, the nearby Sakoto cave stays much cooler at a balmy 29 degrees or so.


Chimps weren’t seen in the cave but a porcupine was

In 2007 a researcher found hair, faeces and other evidence of chimp presence in this cave during the hottest period of the year. They put 2 + 2 together and concluded that the chimps were likely seeking refuge from the heat. Evidence of chimp occupation was found for nearly half the weeks of May and June. However, no direct observations were made.  Without more data its difficult to figure out just how regular or important this behaviour is.

I do not envy the job of the researcher who has to go looking for spear-wielding chimps in dark caves to gather this extra data.

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Jim Birch · 17th November 2013 at 1:37 am

You are making this stuff up. It will be hunting with semiautonomous drones next week.

    Adam Benton · 17th November 2013 at 2:30 am

    No, next week it will be “they’ve broken down the door, send hel…..”

welikehumans · 17th November 2013 at 3:25 pm

And while you are running from the spear-wielding chimps in the cave, don’t slip on the chimp poop on the floor. I want to know if they poop randomly or go off in a corner. That would be a true sign of intelligence. I have read that some chimps use leaves for toilet paper too. I think they are preparing to replace us.

Jim Thomerson · 20th November 2013 at 5:34 pm

Are there any examples of chimp drawn cave art?

    Adam Benton · 20th November 2013 at 5:39 pm

    No, but chimps have been taught to paint.

Artem Kaznatcheev · 17th December 2013 at 2:10 pm

Was the human use of caves also believed to be linked to avoiding the heat? If so then the heat has played a huge role in our adaptation: bipedalism to separate breath from gait, killer sweat glands, and caves?

    Adam Benton · 17th December 2013 at 3:30 pm

    In some circumstances that seems to be the case; but it should be remembered that cave sites actually appear to be the minority of sites. We just have more preserved because they are better conditions. Even then, some cave sites appear to have been purely used for cave art; rather than habitation (but then thats dealing with much later sites)

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