Percussive tool use by Taï Western chimpanzees and Fazenda Boa Vista bearded capuchin monkeys: a comparison
Percussive tool use holds special interest for scientists concerned with human origins. We summarize the findings from two field sites, Taï and Fazenda Boa Vista, where percussive tool use by chimpanzees and bearded capuchins, respectively, has been extensively investigated. We describe the ecological settings in which nut-cracking occurs and focus on four aspects of nut-cracking that have important cognitive implications, namely selection of tools, tool transport, tool modification and modulation of actions to reach the goal of cracking the nut. We comment on similarities and differences in behaviour and consider whether the observed differences reflect ecological, morphological, social and/or cognitive factors. Both species are sensitive to physical properties of tools, adjust their selection of hammers conditionally to the resistance of the nuts and to transport distance, and modulate the energy of their strikes under some conditions. However, chimpanzees transport hammers more frequently and for longer distances, take into account a higher number of combinations of variables and occasionally intentionally modify tools. A parsimonious interpretation of our findings is that morphological, ecological and social factors account for the observed differences. Confirmation of plausible cognitive differences in nut-cracking requires data not yet available.