We systematically recorded all long-distance chimpanzee vocalizations and tree drums over a 26-month study period in 13 forest regions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We found that the frequency of chimpanzee vocalizations and tree drums was considerably higher in the remote Gangu Forest than in other forest regions closer to human settlements and roads. We present evidence indicating that chimpanzees may reduce their levels of vocalizations in areas characterized by high levels of human hunting. The chimpanzees appear to have the behavioural flexibility necessary to modify their behaviour in areas where humans are a major threat. We discuss the possible consequences of this reduction in vocalization rate on the social system of the chimpanzees.
Pollination based on insect deception has been debated in the scientific community since it was first reported over two hundred years ago. A vast majority of deceptive syndromes occur within the orchid family. While many cheating flowers have been described and are well known, there are still many curious cases that need further investigation. One prime example of such a case is Cypripedium calceolus, known as European lady’s slipper orchid. While the flower has been of interest to many prominent scientists for over a century, its pollination is still not fully understood. Both visual and olfactory cues seem to play an important role in pollinator attraction. In this study we focussed on the olfactory cues in order to explore their relationship (in future experiments) with floral visual cues, including the unique asymmetry of these flowers. Some of the plants’ floral fragrances were used in Electroantennography experiments. Eleven chemical compounds were applied to the antennae of Bombus terrestris and Apis mellifera. Even though these species are not regular visitors of C. calceolus, we were interested to see whether there were common principles in their responses to the flowers’ scent that might justify extrapolating to other pollinator species such as sand bees that get trapped in these orchids and fly out of the flowers afterwards with pollen smeared on their body. The results show that while both species react similarly to most of the odours, some of the tested acetates induced a significantly greater reaction in B. terrestris antennae. These acetates play an important role in bumblebee pheromones, but their relevance for the natural pollinators of C. calceolus remains to be confirmed to see whether chemical mimicry by these flowers is deliberately employed to attract pollinators.
In order to achieve a better understanding of the factors that might have led our hominin ancestors to transition to a more terrestrial niche, including sleeping on the ground, we have conducted a study on the ground nesting behavior of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Chimpanzees, like all other species of great apes, build nests in which to sleep each night, but little is known about regional differences in their nesting habits. Previously, nesting on the ground was considered typical of gorillas, but rare in most populations of chimpanzees. Using data acquired during our extensive chimpanzee nesting survey conducted between 2004 and 2013 across a > 50 000 km2 region in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, we report a distinctive ground nesting behaviour of eastern chimpanzees (P. t. schweinfurthii). We have mapped the geographical distribution of ground nesting and compared its frequency at 20 survey areas on both sides of a large river, the Uele. We found that ground nests made up more than 1% of total nests at 15 of the 20 survey regions. For a subset of 16 of these regions, we utilized statistical models to investigate whether forest type and structure, as well as the abundance of carnivores and large herbivores, and the activities of humans impacted the frequency of ground nesting and nest height. We predicted that higher encounter rates of human and dangerous animal signs would be associated with lower rates of ground nesting as well as increased nest height. Overall, 10.4% of the Bili-Uéré chimpanzee nests were terrestrial, but the frequency of ground nesting varied extensively between the survey areas (0-29% of nests). The occurrence of ground nests was positively associated with denser forests (p = 0.004), herb patches (p < 0.001), and light gaps (p < 0.001). Light gaps (p < 0.001), herb patches (p = 0.044), and vine tangles (p = 0.016) also had a strong negative effect on nest height. Hunting by humans had a negative effect on the probability of the occurrence of ground nests (p = 0.001) and a positive one on nest height (p = 0.013), with a similar but likely marginal effect of large herbivores on nest height (p = 0.023). In addition, the chimpanzees nested at significantly lower heights with increasing distance from roads and settlements (p < 0.001). Carnivore encounter rates, however, had no significant impact on ground nest frequency or nest height. Our results indicate that ground nesting can no longer be considered a rare and patchily-occurring phenomenon in Pan troglodytes, but is instead a major component of the chimpanzee behavioural repertoire across a considerable fraction of the range of the Eastern subspecies. Our study highlights that neither the large body size of gorillas nor the taming of fire are necessary conditions for hominids to sleep overnight on the ground, even in areas inhabited by multiple species of large carnivore. Human hunting, however, appears to reduce the probability of ground nesting, or eliminate the behavior altogether.
To improve our understanding of the evolutionary origins of culture and technology in humans, it is vital that we document the full extent of behavioural diversity in our great ape relatives. About half of the world’s remaining chimpanzees (Pan spp.) live in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), yet until now we have known almost nothing about their behaviour. Here we describe the insect-related tool technology of Bili-Uéré chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) inhabiting an area of at least a 50,000-km2 area in northern DRC, as well as their percussive technology associated with food processing. Over a 12-year period, we documented chimpanzee tools and artefacts at 20 survey areas and gathered data on dung, feeding remains and sleeping nests. We describe a new chimpanzee tool kit: long probes used to harvest epigaeic driver ants (Dorylus spp.), short probes used to extract ponerine ants and the arboreal nests of stingless bees, wands to dip for D. kohli and stout digging sticks used to access underground meliponine bee nests. Epigaeic Dorylus tools were significantly longer than the other tool types, and D. kohli tools were significantly thinner. Tools classified as terrestrial honey-digging sticks were a significant predictor for brushed and blunted tool ends, consistent with their presumed use. We describe two potential new tool types, an “ant scoop” and a “fruit hammer.” We document an extensive percussive technology used to process termite mounds of Cubitermes sp. and Thoracotermes macrothorax and hard-shelled fruits such as Strychnos, along with evidence of the pounding open of African giant snails and tortoises. We encountered some geographic variation in behaviour: we found honey-digging tools, long driver ant probes and fruit-pounding sites only to the north of the Uele River; there were more epigaeic Dorylus tools to the north and more ponerine ant tools to the south. We found no evidence of termite-fishing, despite the availability of Macrotermes muelleri mounds throughout the region. This lack of evidence is consistent with the results of dung washes, which revealed a substantial proportion of driver ants, but no evidence of Macrotermes or other termites. Our results allow us to describe a new chimpanzee behavioural complex, characterised by a general similarity of multiple behaviours across a large, ecologically diverse region but with subtle differences in prey choice and techniques. We propose that this widespread and related suite of behaviours be referred to as the Bili-Uéré Chimpanzee Behavioural Realm. Possible explanations for this pattern are a recent chimpanzee expansion across the region and the interconnectedness of this population across at least the entirety of northern DRC.