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Do Chimpanzee Nests Serve an Anti-Predatory Function?

Authors


Correspondence to: Fiona Stewart, Division of Biological Anthropology, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3QG, UK. E-mail: fas31@cam.ac.uk

Abstract

Sleep is a vulnerable state for animals as it compromises the ability to detect predators. The evolution of shelter construction in the great apes may have been a solution to the trade-off between restorative sleep and predation-risk, which allowed a large bodied ape to sleep recumbent in a safe, comfortable spot. In this article we review the evidence of predator pressure on great apes and specifically investigate the potential influence of predation-risk on chimpanzee nesting behavior by comparing nests between chimpanzees living in a habitat of several potential predators (Issa, Ugalla, Tanzania) and a habitat relatively devoid of predators (Fongoli, Senegal). Chimpanzees in Issa did not nest more frequently in forest vegetation than chimpanzees in Fongoli although forest vegetation is expected to provide greater opportunity for escape from terrestrial predators. Nor do chimpanzees in Issa nest in larger groups or aggregate together more than Fongoli chimpanzees, as would be expected if larger groups provide protection from or greater detection of predators. Nests in Issa also did not appear to provide greater opportunities for escape than nests in Fongoli. Chimpanzees in Issa nested more frequently within the same tree as other community members, which may indicate that these chimpanzees nest in greater proximity than chimpanzees in Fongoli. Finally, Issa chimpanzees built their nests proportionately higher and more peripherally within trees. The selection of high and peripheral nesting locations within trees may make Issa chimpanzees inaccessible to potential predators. Many factors influence nest site selection in chimpanzees, of which danger from terrestrial predators is likely to be one. Am. J. Primatol. 75:593-604, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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