Not all complex chimp behaviors are related to acquiring food. Image Credit: GFDL 1.2 Ikiwaner
Researchers have identified possible evidence that some chimpanzees engage in ritualistic practices.
Studies over the last sixty years have revealed that chimps are capable of many complex feeding behaviors, but now researchers working for the Max Planck Institute's Pan African Program have found evidence that our primate cousins may engage in other human-like activities as well.
The discovery was made after the team came across strange piles of rocks in several locations and set up cameras to film whatever the chimps were doing to create them.
The footage showed the animals picking up stones and throwing them at trees while making loud howling noises. Some of the trees were found to have large accumulations of rocks inside them.
While the researchers noted that it was mostly the male chimps that did this, some of the footage also showed female and juvenile chimps attempting to participate on some occasions.
So far the exact purpose of this unusual behavior remains a mystery however some of the scientists have speculated that it could have some form of cultural or ritualistic significance.
"Chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing and the subsequent aggregation of tools at particular trees shares two important features with human ritual practices," they wrote.
"The strong association to a particular location or site with a collection of artefacts over time, and ritualized behavior patterns."
Whether the stone-throwing and accumulation behaviors indicate that the chimpanzees possess their own primitive spiritual beliefs however remains, at least for the moment, unclear.