Recognizing hominoid-modified bones: The taphonomy of colobus bones partially digested by free-ranging chimpanzees in the Kibale Forest, Uganda

Martha Tappen, Richard Wrangham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

We present a taphonomic study of bones that have passed though the digestive tracts of free-ranging chimpanzees from the Kibale Forest in Uganda. The bone assemblage can be characterized as having a very low species diversity; low number of identifiable specimens (NISP) per scat; bones extremely broken up (very small size range); skeletal part frequencies similar in some ways to those resulting from carnivore partial digestion; and sometimes articulated specimens. Modifications to the bones include corrosion, tiny tooth scores and pits, cracking, and fraying of bone edges. Together, these characteristics suggest that hominoid bone digestion may be recognizable, despite some similarities with leopard-, canid-, and eagle-modified bone. Chimpanzees are well-documented hunters of medium-sized vertebrates such as monkeys. This is significant in the study of human evolution if, as it seems, the last common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans was chimpanzee-like. It suggests there was a pre-stone-tool-using hunting phase in human evolution, perhaps by australopiths or the last common ancestor. Taphonomically, pre-stone tool meat eating has been very difficult to detect in the fossil record. However, if chimpanzees leave a recognizable taphonomic signature on the bones of their prey, we will be able to look for analogous signatures in fossil bones associated with fossil hominoids and hominids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-234
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume113
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2000

Keywords

  • Bone modification
  • Meat-eating by chimpanzees

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