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Chimpanzee Tool Use in Dental Grooming


TOOL use by animals is characteristically restricted to agonistic, exploratory, or self-maintenance contexts, and we have only one record of its use in social grooming1. Belle, a female chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) at the Delta Regional Primate Research Center, used sticks as aids in grooming the teeth of other individuals, and on one occasion she fashioned a stick tool by stripping a twig of its leaves. In 135 h of observation over 6 weeks, we recorded forty-five bouts of dental grooming: four of tool use (all social), twenty-three of social grooming, seven of attempted social grooming, and eleven of self grooming. Dental grooming occurred on 16 of the 27 observation days.

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