Field experiments find no evidence that chimpanzee nut cracking can be independently innovated.
Cumulative culture has been claimed a hallmark of human evolution. Yet, the uniqueness of human culture is heavily debated. The zone of latent solutions hypothesis states that only humans have cultural forms that require form-copying social learning and are culture-dependent. Non-human ape cultural behaviours are considered 'latent solutions', which can be independently (re-)innovated. Others claim that chimpanzees, like humans, have cumulative culture. Here, we use field experiments at Seringbara (Nimba Mountains, Guinea) to test whether chimpanzee nut cracking can be individually (re-)innovated. We provided: (1) palm nuts and stones, (2) palm fruit bunch, (3) cracked palm nuts and (4) Coula nuts and stones. Chimpanzee parties visited (n = 35) and explored (n = 11) the experiments but no nut cracking occurred. In these experiments, chimpanzees did not individually (re-)innovate nut cracking under ecologically valid conditions. Our null results are consistent with the hypothesis that chimpanzee nut cracking is a product of social learning.