Strike one more up for Evolution – First tool use shown in Wild Gorillas

Jan 17th, 2009 | By | Category: Inspiring, Links

In an article submitted in 2005 scientists observed the first tool use from Wild Gorilla’s, scientists Thomas Breuer1,2*, Mireille Ndoundou-Hockemba1, and Vicki Fishlock1 (working with Wildlife Conservation Society, Mbeli Bai Study, Nouabalé-Ndoki Project, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany ) observerd a Gorilla using a walking stick not only to aid her in walking upright, but also to test the depth of the water infront of her.  Besides the remarkable amount of intelligence it takes to use this tool for depth testing it clearly demonstrates a transition to walking upright.

While this may not be that much use in dense forest, if Gorilla’s existed in the plains much like the primates we evolved from, then walking tall would allow them to see predators much more easily and with the use of such tools they may have adapted scouts or an overall upright, albeit aided, stance.  A few hundred thousand years of this and their muscles and bones would have developed to be able to allow this without the stick, leading to a completely upright species and eventually leading to us.

To quote the article “Adult female Leah was seen at the pool edge near where a branch was sticking out of the surface, looking intently at the water in front of her for 1 min before she entering the water . She began to cross the pool walking bipedally, but after her first steps the water quickly became waist deep and she returned to the pool edge. Leah then re-entered again bipedally and grabbed the straight branch in front of her with her right hand. Relative to Leah’s body size we estimated the leafless branch as being approximately 1 m long and 2 cm thick. Leah then detached the stick and, stretching forward with it in her right hand, seemed to use it to test the water depth or substrate stability: she grasped the stick firmly and repeatedly prodded the water in front of her with the end of the stick. She then moved further into the pool, holding the detached branch in her right hand and using it as a walking stick for postural support. She advanced a further 8–10 m from the pool edge , repeating the actions shown in Figure 1, and then, leaving the stick in the pond, returned to her entry point, where her offspring was crying.”

In a second and third demonstration of tool use another female forcibly put a stick into the ground so that she could use it to prop herself upright and then “held the tool for support with her left hand over her head for 2 min while dredging food with the other hand. Efi then took the trunk with both hands and placed it on the swampy ground in front of her, crossed bipedally on this self-made bridge, and walked quadrupedally towards the middle of the clearing”

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