Jeffrey LewisChimpanzees Sought Yellowcake in Africa

We really shouldn’t wait until the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud, that is all I am saying:

Chimpanzees living in the West African savannah have been observed fashioning deadly spears from sticks and using the tools to hunt small mammals—the first routine production of deadly weapons ever observed in animals other than humans.

The multistep spearmaking practice, documented by researchers in Senegal who spent years gaining the chimpanzees’ trust, adds credence to the idea that human forebears fashioned similar tools millions of years ago.


In one case, after repeated stabs, a chimpanzee removed the injured or dead animal and ate it, the researchers reported in yesterday’s online issue of the journal Current Biology.

“It was really alarming how forceful it was,” said lead researcher Jill D. Pruetz of Iowa State University, adding that it reminded her of the murderous shower scene in the Alfred Hitchcock movie “Psycho.” “It was kind of scary.”

Why? Because we love monkeys and other primates here at Arms Control Wonk.

You can read the entire paper, “Savanna Chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus, Hunt with Tools”, in the forthcoming issue of Current Biology.

(Hat tip: AT)


  1. yale (History)
  2. scooter libido (History)

    Damned dirty apes.

  3. Lee Dunbar (History)

    This sounds like the “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” one of the many sequels to original.

  4. Robot Economist (History)

    Now that chimps have developed arms, does this mean that the next step in their evolutionary development is arms control?

    Maybe we should be on the look out for groups of chimps holding “Sharpened Sticks Limitation Talks.” Who knows, they might even form a “Pointy Rocks Suppliers Group” one day.

  5. Ravenor (History)

    It’s bizarre that the researcher quoted thought that the chimp’s forcefulness was “alarming”. If a person has learned anything about biology they should know that living things kill and eat other living things. Just because a chimp is using a spear doesn’t change the basic activity. A predator’s goal is to kill and eat its prey as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  6. RS (History)

    I wonder how long it will take for the anti-war movement to start demanding that the chimps give a chance to diplomacy and lay down the sticks.

  7. random dude

    The researcher said the chimp’s forceful stabbing was “scary”. Uh… ever see Braveheart?

  8. nzruss

    @ RS,

    Don’t the chimps have a right to develop stick technology for peaceful purposes?

  9. Tim (History)

    it’s even more surprising that a CHIMP researcher would describe forceful use of a stick as alarming. This is the same creature, after all, that prefers to gouge out eyes and bite off genitals when attacking humans or each other. Forceful stick jabbing is downright civil!