Development of object manipulation in wild chimpanzees

Noemie Lamon, Christof Neumann, Klaus Zuberbuhler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Chimpanzees’ natural propensity to explore and play with objects is likely to be an important precursor of tool use. Manipulating objects provides individuals with pivotal perceptual-motor experience when interacting with the material world, which may then pave the way for subsequent tool use. In this study, we were interested in the influence of social models on the developmental patterns of object manipulation in young chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) of the Sonso community of Budongo Forest, Uganda. This community is interesting because of its limited tool repertoire, with no records of stick-based foraging in over 20 years of continuous observations. Using cross-sectional data, we found evidence for social learning in that young individuals preferentially played with and explored materials manipulated by their mothers. We also found that object manipulation rates decreased with age, whereas the goal-directedness of these manipulations increased. Specifically, stick manipulations gradually decreased with age, which culminated in complete disregard of sticks around the age of 10 years, a pattern not found for other tool materials, which were all used throughout adulthood. Overall, young chimpanzees initially explored and played unselectively with any object found in the environment before becoming increasingly influenced by their mothers’ goal directed object manipulations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-130
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Early online date26 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Budongo Forest
  • Material culture
  • Maternal influence
  • Ontogeny
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Social learning
  • Stimulus enhancement
  • Tool use


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