chimps on the savanna? Nooooo.....

Alex Duncan (
18 Oct 1995 01:11:14 GMT

I have recently seen people posting to this newsgroup questioning whether
chimps ever venture into open territory. I know I shouldn't bother,
given that the same people tend to display ignorance about a vast array
of subjects, but nonetheless....The following is the abstract from the

McGrew WC, Baldwin PJ & Tutin CEG (1981) Chimpanzees in a hot, dry and
open habitat: Mt. Assirik, Senegal, West Africa. J. Hum. Evol.,

I don't have time to scan the whole article, so don't bother asking.

The article doesn't discuss behavior in the chimps, but merely describes
the habitat, and compares it to the habitat of the !Kung. The authors
promise to look at behavior in a later article, which I've never seen.

Begin quote

The habitat of the chimpanzees of Mt. Assirik, in the Parc National du
Niokolo-Koba, Senegal, is described in terms of rainfall, temperature and
vegetation. The results are compared with those collected at five other
sites of study elsewhere in Africa. Mt. Assirik is the driest site at
which chimpanzees have been studied, in terms of annual rainfall,
proportion of dry months, and number of rainy days. Mt. Assirik is also
the hottest such site: the coolest mean maximum temperature at Mt.
Assirik exceeds the hottest such temperature at any other site. Mt.
Assirik is the only site where chimpanzees have been studied in which
the majority of vegetation is grassland. Forest constitutes less than 3%
of the surface area. In summary Mt. Assirik presents a truly open savanna
habitat and is thus unique amongst sites where chimpanzees have been
studied. These results are compared with data from a tropical foraging
human society, the !Kung San of southern .Africa. The !Kung San's habitat
is drier on most (but not all) criteria, but Mt. Assirik is hotter. The
climate and vegetation of Mt. Assirik strikingly resemble those
reconstructed for the Plio-Pleistocene in eastern Africa. This suggests
that the chimpanzees of Mt. Assirik; provide a useful model for inferring
the processes of adaptation in early hominids.

End quote

Alex Duncan
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712-1086