Do chimpanzee food calls bias listeners toward novel items?

Eloïse C Déaux*, Clémence Bonneaud, Adrian Baumeyer, Klaus Zuberbühler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Social learning is beneficial in almost every domain of a social animal's life, but it is particularly important in the context of predation and foraging. In both contexts, social animals tend to produce acoustically distinct vocalizations, alarms, and food calls, which have remained somewhat of an evolutionary conundrum as they appear to be costly for the signaller. Here, we investigated the hypothesis that food calls function to direct others toward novel food items, using a playback experiment on a group of chimpanzees. We showed chimpanzees novel (plausibly edible) items while simultaneously playing either conspecific food calls or acoustically similar greeting calls as a control. We found that individuals responded by staying longer near items previously associated with food calls even in the absence of these vocalizations, and peered more at these items compared with the control items, provided no conspecifics were nearby. We also found that once chimpanzees had access to both item types, they interacted more with the one previously associated with food calls than the control items. However, we found no evidence of social learning per se. Given these effects, we propose that food calls may gate and thus facilitate social learning by directing listeners' attention to new feeding opportunities, which if integrated with additional cues could ultimately lead to new food preferences within social groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23498
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number7
Early online date27 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • Ape
  • Foraging
  • Social facilitation hypothesis
  • Social learning
  • Vocalization


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