Primatologists Emmanuelle Normand, Christophe Boesch, and Simone Ban recently conducted a study focused on the spatial memory of chimpanzees. Using GPS, the team mapped the location of 12,500 individual trees within the home range of a group of chimps in the Tai National Park in Ivory Coast. Then, after tracking which trees the chimps regularly fed from, the researchers found that chimps would specifically seek out certain fruit trees depending on when the fruit was in season.
According to Normand:
“Across all seasons, it seems that they have preferred tree species. Like when it is the coula nuts season, chimpanzees crack nuts using tools for hours during a day. Or when it is the Sacoglottis fruits season, then the chimpanzees stay hours digging their fruit wadge in the water to press a maximum of juice from those fruits.”
The team believes this preference for fruit and the need to remember where the fruit trees are and when they are in season drove the evolutionary development of the primate brain. Another primate who also has a penchant for finding their favorite fruit within a vast forest range is the Bornean orangutan.
For more information about the chimp study, see: BBC Earth News.