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Data from: How chimpanzees integrate sensory information to select figs

Cite this dataset

Dominy, Nathaniel J. et al. (2017). Data from: How chimpanzees integrate sensory information to select figs [Dataset]. Dryad.


Figs are keystone resources that sustain chimpanzees when preferred fruits are scarce. Many figs retain a green(ish) colour throughout development, a pattern that causes chimpanzees to evaluate edibility on the basis of achromatic accessory cues. Such behaviour is conspicuous because it entails a succession of discrete sensory assessments, including the deliberate palpation of individual figs, a task that requires advanced visuomotor control. These actions are strongly suggestive of domain-specific information processing and decision-making, and they call attention to a potential selective force on the origin of advanced manual prehension and digital dexterity during primate evolution. To explore this concept, we report on the foraging behaviours of chimpanzees and the spectral, chemical and mechanical properties of figs, with cutting tests revealing ease of fracture in the mouth. By integrating the ability of different sensory cues to predict fructose content in a Bayesian updating framework, we quantified the amount of information gained when a chimpanzee successively observes, palpates and bites the green figs of Ficus sansibarica. We found that the cue eliciting ingestion was not colour or size, but fig mechanics (including toughness estimates from wedge tests), which relays higher-quality information on fructose concentrations than colour vision. This result explains why chimpanzees evaluate green figs by palpation and dental incision, actions that could explain the adaptive origins of advanced manual prehension.

Usage notes


Africa (Uganda)
Kibale National Park