Abstract # 208:

Scheduled for Monday, September 19, 2011 08:15 AM-08:30 AM: Session 26 (Meeting Room 410) Oral Presentation


K. E. Bonnie1,2, M. Milstein2, S. R. Ross2, S. Calcutt2 and E. V. Lonsdorf2
1Beloit College, Beloit, WI, USA, 2Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL

In a variable environment, a behavior which may have been successful on one day might not result in success on the next. To cope with this variability, individuals can utilize information acquired personally, through trial and error, and/or socially, by observing the success and failures of others in their social group. This series of experiments was designed to test if and how a group of captive chimpanzees (n = 7) adjust their foraging strategy at an artificial termite mound as the availability of resources provided by the mound varied over a number of weeks. As predicted, as the number of baited holes decreased, chimpanzees spent less time fishing at the termite mound (r = -.86, p < .001); likewise, as the number of baited holes later increased, chimpanzees spent increasingly more time fishing (r = .738, p < .001). However, chimpanzees continued to fish at unbaited locations even weeks after the hole had last contained food. The results suggest chimpanzees can modify a previously learned, successful strategy in order to effectively obtain a food reward. However, chimpanzees sometimes continue to practice outdated and unsuccessful strategies, while ignoring information gained both through individual and social learning. The latter finding may be explained in part by the social dynamics occurring within the groups, or by the nature of the captive environment in which these chimpanzees live.