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Communication makes hunting easier for chimpanzees — ScienceDaily

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Like humans, chimpanzees use communication to coordinate their behavior, such as when hunting. Researchers from the University of Zurich and Tufts University have shown that when chimpanzees emit a specific vocalization known as a “hunting bark,” they attract more group members to the hunt and capture their prey more effectively.

Chimpanzees don’t just forage for fruit, they also occasionally look for protein-rich meat. To catch their nimble monkey prey in the canopy, chimpanzees prefer to have hunting companions close to them. Scientists have discovered for the first time that communication is the key to recruiting group members to participate in hunting.

The hunting bark makes the chase more effective

By studying more than 300 hunting incidents recorded over the past 25 years in the Kanyawara chimpanzee community in Uganda, researchers from the University of Zurich (UZH) and Tufts University in Boston found that wild apes catalyze group hunting by barking, making this form of cooperation more effective. . “Chimpanzees that produce hunting barks provide information to those around them about their motivation to hunt, and this information can persuade those who are reluctant to join in, increasing the overall chances of success,” says Joseph Mein, a PhD student in the Department of Comparative Linguistics at UZH. , who supervised the study.

Hunting monkeys as a group in dense rainforests where visibility is limited can be a challenging task. Vocal communication allows you to work more effectively in a group. “Surprisingly, after establishing a hunting cortex, we noticed more hunters joining in, faster speeds at the start of the chase, and a shorter time to make the first capture,” says the latest study’s co-author Zarin Machanda of Tufts University, who led the study. The Kanyawara Chimpanzee Project.

Although hunting is more effective after barking, more research is needed to find out why barking has this effect. “At this point, it is still unclear whether these barks are used intentionally to coordinate precise group actions, or whether these barks simply advertise an individual’s decision to hunt, which in turn increases the likelihood that others will join them and increase the number of hunters. they are more efficient,” adds UZH Professor Simon Townsend, who helped lead the study.

Coevolution of communication and cooperation

Evolutionary biologists have looked at a wide range of other factors that may influence hunting outcomes, including the availability of skilled hunters and potential distractions, but the appearance of hunting barks has remained a key role. “Communication plays a key role in coordinating complex acts of cooperation in humans, and this is the first evidence that vocal communication may also facilitate group cooperation among our closest living relatives,” says Townsend.

It is widely recognized that communication and cooperation are closely related and co-evolved in humans. Over time, as one became more complex, so did the other, creating a feedback loop that eventually led to language and the uniquely complex forms of cooperation in which modern humans engage.

The evolutionary roots are at least 7 million years old

However, it was not known how far back in the human evolutionary past this relationship between group cooperation and communication could be traced. Joseph Mein concludes: “Our results show that the relationship between vocal communication and group-level cooperation is ancient. This relationship appears to have existed for at least 7 million years, since our last common ancestor with chimpanzees.”

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Materials is provided University of Zurich. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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