Robust retention and transfer of tool construction techniques in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

Gill L. Vale, Emma G. Flynn, Lydia Pender, Elizabeth Price, Andrew Whiten, Susan P. Lambeth, Steven J. Schapiro, Rachel L. Kendal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    7 Scopus citations


    Long-term memory can be critical to a species' survival in environments with seasonal and even longer-term cycles of resource availability. The present, longitudinal study investigated whether complex tool behaviors used to gain an out-of-reach reward, following a hiatus of about 3 years and 7 months since initial experiences with a tool use task, were retained and subsequently executed more quickly by experienced than by naïve chimpanzees. Ten of the 11 retested chimpanzees displayed impressive long-term procedural memory, creating elongated tools using the same methods employed years previously, either combining 2 tools or extending a single tool. The complex tool behaviors were also transferred to a different task context, showing behavioral flexibility. This represents some of the first evidence for appreciable long-term procedural memory, and improvements in the utility of complex tool manufacture in chimpanzees. Such long-term procedural memory and behavioral flexibility have important implications for the longevity and transmission of behavioral traditions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)24-35
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


    • Chimpanzee
    • Compound tool
    • Memory
    • Tool use

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Psychology (miscellaneous)

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    Vale, G. L., Flynn, E. G., Pender, L., Price, E., Whiten, A., Lambeth, S. P., Schapiro, S. J., & Kendal, R. L. (2016). Robust retention and transfer of tool construction techniques in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 130(1), 24-35.