Mutualism and Manipulation in Hadza-Honeyguide Interactions
We investigated the ecology and evolution of interspecific cooperation between the Greater Honeyguide bird, Indicator indicator, and human hunter-gatherers, the Hadza of northern Tanzania. We found that honeyguides increased the Hadza's rate of finding bee nests by 560%, and that the birds led men to significantly higher yielding nests than those found without honeyguides. We estimate that 8–10% of the Hadza's total diet was acquired with the help of honeyguides. Contrary to most depictions of the human-honeyguide relationship, the Hadza did not actively repay honeyguides, but instead, hid, buried, and burned honeycomb, with the intent of keeping the bird hungry and thus more likely to guide again. Such manipulative behavior attests to the importance of social intelligence in hunter-gatherer foraging strategies. We present an evolutionary model for human-honeyguide interactions guided by the behavioral ecology of bees, non-human primates, and hunter-gatherers.