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Long-term memory helps chimpanzees in their search for food
Date:10/23/2013

This news release is available in German.

Where do you go when the fruits in your favorite food tree are gone and you don't know which other tree has produced new fruit yet? An international team of researchers, led by Karline Janmaat from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, studied whether chimpanzees aim their travel to particular rainforest trees to check for fruit and how they increase their chances of discovering bountiful fruit crops. The scientists found that chimpanzees use long-term memory of the size and location of fruit trees and remember feeding experiences from previous seasons using a memory window which can be two months to three years ago.

For their study, the researchers recorded the behavior of five chimpanzee females for continuous periods of four to eight weeks, totaling 275 complete days, throughout multiple fruiting seasons in the Ta National Park, Cte d'Ivoire. They found that chimpanzees fed on significantly larger trees than other reproductively mature trees of the same species, especially if their fruits emitted an obvious smell. Interestingly, trees that were merely checked for edible fruit, but where monitoring could not have been triggered by smell, or the sound of fallen fruit, because the trees did not carry fruit, were also larger.

The researchers found that chimpanzees checked most trees along the way during travel, but 13% were approached in a goal-directed manner. These targeted approaches were unlikely initiated by visual cues and occurred more often when females foraged alone and when trees were large as opposed to small. The results suggested that their monitoring was guided by a long-term "what-where" memory of the location of large potential food trees. For their results, researche
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Contact: Karline R. L. Janmaat
karline_janmaat@eva.mpg.de
49-152-158-77934
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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