Food washing and placer mining in captive great apes

Matthias Allritz, Claudio Tennie*, Josep Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sweet potato washing and wheat placer mining in Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) are among the most well known examples of local traditions in non-human animals. The functions of these behaviors and the mechanisms of acquisition and spread of these behaviors have been debated frequently. Prompted by animal caretaker reports that great apes [chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus), gorillas (Gorilla gorilla), and orangutans (Pongo abelii)] at Leipzig Zoo occasionally wash their food, we conducted a study of food washing behaviors that consisted of two parts. In the first part we assessed the current distribution of the behavior on the basis of caretaker reports. In the second (experimental) part, we provided subjects individually with a water basin and two types of food (apples and cereal) that was either clean or covered/mixed with sand. We found that subjects of all species (except gorillas) placed apples in the water before consumption, and that they did so more often when the apples were dirty than when they were clean. Several chimpanzees and orangutans also engaged in behaviors resembling wheat placer mining.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-370
Number of pages10
JournalPrimates
Volume54
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

Keywords

  • Food washing
  • Placer mining
  • Tradition
  • Great apes
  • MACACA-FASCICULARIS
  • JAPANESE MACAQUES
  • BEHAVIOR
  • WATER
  • PRIMATES
  • MONKEYS
  • LEVEL

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