19.04.2014 - 16:31
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Contact

Department of Primatology

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 200
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 299

Vittoria Luisa Estienne

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Primatology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

phone: +49 341 3550 242
e-mail: vittoria_estienne@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de 

Research interest

My main interest consists in understanding the evolution of cultural traits in animals. In order to investigate this topic, I am considering both the ecological conditions and the social environment where the behaviour of interest occurs. Also, particularly intriguing to me is investigating how a potential cultural trait appears and changes over time during an individual’s development, and whether this might be socially transmitted. Cultural variants of tool use techniques in chimpanzees have been demonstrated to occur across different communities, and a long term relationship exists between mother and offspring, as well as a strong social relationship between different individuals within a given community. For these reasons, chimpanzee tool use behaviour represents a very appealing case study to me.

My PhD project focuses on a particular case of tool use performed by the chimpanzee community of Rekambo, at the field site of Loango National Park (Gabon). Here, the chimpanzees have been observed to use sticks in order to access a highly-valuable but hidden food resource (namely, underground honey). Indirect monitoring of the bee nests using camera traps allowed us to record animal activity at these sites and to observe chimpanzees’ tool use with no disturbance. My project aims at describing the tool use technique employed by chimpanzees in order to access the honey and evaluating how the ecological constrains affect chimpanzees’ success. Moreover, I will investigate the occurrence of individual differences in the performance of such a complex behaviour and eventually the development of this technique (or of its individual variations) over the ontogeny.