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The chimpanzees of the Taï Forest, Côte d’Ivoire, crack highly nutritious Coula edulis nuts using anvils and hammers. While using tools to access encased food items provides obvious benefits, the energetic gain of tool-assisted foraging can be further increased by optimal selection of tools. Previous studies of animal tool selection often relied on implicit assumptions or theoretical arguments about how tool features would influence foraging efficiency, and comprehensive measures of actual efficiency are still missing. We used field observations of nut-cracking efficiency and previously published estimates of energetic costs to investigate the rate of net energy intake as a function of hammer weight and hammer material. While stones allowed for a generally more efficient performance, nut-cracking efficiency depended on an interaction of hammer weight and material. Relative performance of stones and wood varied according to the ripeness of the nuts. Chimpanzees’ tool selection tends to optimize nut-cracking in many respects. Nonetheless, we also observed a few mismatches between efficiency and selection, some of which may be explained on cognitive, motivational or cultural grounds.
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