Constructive and deconstructive tool modification by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

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Nine chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) were tested for their ability to assemble or disassemble the appropriate tool to obtain a food reward from two different apparatus. In its deconstructed form, the tool functioned as a probe for one apparatus. In its constructed form, the tool functioned as a hook, appropriate for a second apparatus. Each subject completed four test trials with each apparatus type. Tool types were randomized and counter-balanced between the two forms. Results demonstrated that adult and juvenile chimpanzees (N = 7) were successful with both tool types, while two infant chimpanzees performed near chance. Off-line video analyses revealed that tool modifications followed by attempted solutions by the adults and juveniles were typically correct on the first attempt. Neither infant was successful in modifying tools correctly on the first attempt over all eight trials. The older chimpanzees' ability to modify the appropriate tool consistently prior to use indicates an immediate recognition of the functional attributes necessary for the successful use of tool types on each apparatus, and represents a non-replication of a previously reported study by Povinelli.

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