Chimps, Like Humans, Travel for Better Food

First Posted: Mar 19, 2015 06:21 AM EDT

It turns out that humans aren't the only ones who like good food. Scientists have found that chimps will travel a further distance for preferred food sources in non-wild habitats.

In this case, the researchers looked at chimpanzees at the Lincoln Park Zoo. These chimps prefer grapes over carrots, and the researchers were curious to see how far the primates would go to achieve their preferred food.

In this case, the scientists set up an experiment. In order to receive a food award, the chimpanzees had to collect tokens, or small lengths of PVC pipe, from a single location. The chimps could then exchange the tokens with researchers at one of two locations-a close location with a carrot reward or a far location with a grape reward. By the third phase, the chimpanzees preferred to travel further in order to receive the better food.

"It was quite fascinating to see the developments between each of the three phases of the token exchange study," said Lydia Hopper, one of the researchers, in a news release. "In addition to learning about food preferences and proximity, we also observed innovative, problem-solving behavior among the chimpanzees."

The first chimp to discover the furthest location was actually the lowest-status female in the group. In fact, the scientists believe that the far location may have been preferred by her because it gave her the opportunity to avoid competition from higher-status chimps at the close location.

"All of the chimpanzees in this study demonstrated flexible foraging strategies with minimal scrounging from one another," said Hopper. "Understanding the animals' preferences and exploration of their habitat is critical to caring for these animals."

The findings are published in the journal PeerJ.

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