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Learning English - Words in the News
23 February, 2007 - Published 13:25 GMT
Chimps use spears to hunt
Chimps sharpened the spears with their teeth

Chimpanzees in Senegal have been observed making and using wooden spears to hunt other animals, according to a study in the journal Current Biology. It's the first time primates have been seen using tools to hunt. This report from Keith Adams:

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Chimps have been known to use tools before, to crack nuts for instance, but this use of spear-like weapons to attack other animals is completely new. Anthropologists from Iowa State University observed the apes at a site in Senegal. They say the chimps gnaw at sticks to sharpen them, then thrust them into tree hollows to hunt out small nocturnal mammals called bushbabies. One of the scientists who observed this, Jill Pruetz, says the innovative apes were predominantly females or the very young. I asked her why.

JILL PRUETZ: "When I saw the behaviour the most, that was during a time when the chimps ranged around as one cohesive group. I think it was a response by immatures and females to competition within the group. So they can't outcompete adult males in terms of resources, so I think this is just an innovative way of solving a problem in terms of food availability."

Chimpanzees are said to be our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, sharing 98 percent of our DNA. Jill Pruetz says that her discovery could shed light on how humans began using tools, and she says it could lend support to theories that it was our female ancestors who first used weapons.

Keith Adams, BBC

Listen to the words

a long pole with a sharp point similar to a spear (used as a weapon)

scientists who study people, society and culture

gnaw at
bite repeatedly at

most active during the night


ranged around as one cohesive group
wandered staying near to each other

not yet adults

perform better than

short for deoxyribonucleic acid, the acid which carries genetic information in a cell

shed light on
make clearer, explain

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