The Washington Post today has a fascinating story about chimps who have apparently developed the ability to fashion crude weapons they use for hunting:
Chimpanzees living in the West African savannah have been observed fashioning deadly spears from sticks and using the tools to hunt small mammals — the first routine production of deadly weapons ever observed in animals other than humans.
The multistep spearmaking practice, documented by researchers in Senegal who spent years gaining the chimpanzees’ trust, adds credence to the idea that human forebears fashioned similar tools millions of years ago.
The landmark observation also supports the long-debated proposition that females — the main makers and users of spears among the Senegalese chimps — tend to be the innovators and creative problem solvers in primate culture.
Using their hands and teeth, the chimpanzees were repeatedly seen tearing the side branches off long, straight sticks, peeling back the bark and sharpening one end. Then, grasping the weapons in a “power grip,” they jabbed them into tree-branch hollows where bush babies — small, monkeylike mammals — sleep during the day.
In one case, after repeated stabs, a chimpanzee removed the injured or dead animal and ate it, the researchers reported in yesterday’s online issue of the journal Current Biology.
One wonders if human weapon making ability started in this way as well.