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Manual skills for food processing by mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Neufuss, Johanna, Robbins, Martha M., Baeumer, Jana, Humle, Tatyana, Kivell, Tracy L. (2018) Manual skills for food processing by mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 127 (3). pp. 543-562. ISSN 0024-4066. E-ISSN 1095-8312. (doi:10.1093/biolinnean/bly071) (KAR id:67176)


Although gorillas rarely use tools in the wild, their manipulative skills during plant processing may be similar to those of other tool-using great apes. Virunga mountain gorillas are known for the complexity in their methods of thistle and nettle plant preparation in the wild. However, there has been no comparable data on food processing in the population of mountain gorillas from the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. We investigated the manual actions and hand grips used when accessing edible parts of two hard-to-process plants defended by stinging hairs, epidermis or periderm (i.e., peel of Urera hypselodendron and pith of Mimulopsis arborescens) and one undefended plant (i.e., leaves of Momordica foetida) in 11 Bwindi wild mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) using video records ad libitum. Similar to thistle feeding by Virunga gorillas, Bwindi gorillas used the greatest number of manual actions for the most hard-to-process plant (U. hypselodendron), the actions were ordered in several key stages and organised hierarchically. The demands of processing plant material elicited 19 different grips and variable thumb postures, of which three grips were new and 16 grips have either been previously reported or show clear similarities to grips used by other wild and captive African apes and humans. Moreover, our study only partly supports a functional link between diet and hand morphology in mountain gorillas and suggests that the gorilla hand is best adapted to forceful grasping that is required for both manipulation and arboreal locomotion.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/biolinnean/bly071
Uncontrolled keywords: feeding skill - dexterity - great ape - gorillas - manipulative behaviour - precision grip - thumb
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: [37325] UNSPECIFIED
Depositing User: Tracy Kivell
Date Deposited: 31 May 2018 09:42 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 17:57 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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