HEB Colloquium: "Chimpanzee Behavioural Flexibility: A Pan African Perspective"


Thursday, November 18, 2021, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Virtual - RSVP for Zoom Link (mmccoy@fas.harvard.edu)

Speaker: Dr. Ammie Kalan, Assistant Professor, University of Victoria 

Date/Time: Thursday, November 18 at 12:00 pm (noon)

Abstract: The Pan African Programme: the Cultured Chimpanzee ('PanAf') has collected data on over 40 wild chimpanzee communities from 2010 to 2020 using a standardized protocol. All chimpanzee communities were unhabituated to researchers at the time of data collection therefore remote, infrared sensor cameras were the primary method for recording behavioural observations. Using such an approach, the PanAf documented new behavioural variants in wild chimpanzees, such as algae fishing and accumulative stone throwing. More recently, we described unprecedented cultural complexity in community-specific termite fishing techniques. By combining PanAf data with what was already known about group-specific traditions in chimpanzees, we further showed that large-scale environmental variability, both in recent and historical time, is associated with higher behavioural and cultural diversity in chimpanzees. Importantly, we demonstrate that this behavioural and cultural diversity is threatened across the chimpanzees’ range due to increasing anthropogenic impact. Combined, our research highlights the behavioural flexibility exhibited by chimpanzee populations and their potential for weathering unpredictable environmental change in the near future.