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Chimpanzees in the Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, vocalize with another party nearby. Photo: Liran Samuni/Taï Chimpanzee Project

Human disturbance that is shrinking the habitat for chimpanzees is also reducing their behavioral diversity, a key component to biodiversity that previous studies had not examined.

Why it matters: Like humans, chimpanzees learn new skills, including the use of tools for feeding and communication gestures, in group settings. By shrinking their habitat in equatorial Africa through deforestation and reducing their numbers through poaching and other activities, a new study published Thursday in Science shows that we may be reducing an under-appreciated aspect of chimpanzee biodiversity: how animals behave.

What they did: In the study, an international team of researchers examined 31 chimpanzee behaviors across 144 chimpanzee communities. This involved field work in more than 40 locations including multiple sites in Uganda.

They measured the degree of human disturbance for each community to try to determine if more disturbed populations show less behavioral biodiversity than populations under less stress.

The behaviors examined in this study include:

  • The extraction and consumption of termites, ants, meat, algae, nuts and honey.
  • The use of tools for hunting or digging for tubers.
  • The use of stones, pools and caves.

What they found: The researchers found that chimpanzees living in areas with high human impact had an 88% reduction in the mean chance of occurrence of the behaviors they were looking for, compared to the areas with lowest human impact.

What they're saying: "The impact of humans on the environment is not only causing the loss of species and populations, but also the loss of unique animal cultures and behavioral diversity," study co-author Ammie Kalan, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, tells Axios.

"Although this has been theoretically predicted, our study provides empirical evidence of this by putting together an unprecedented dataset on one of our closest living relatives."

What's needed: The study suggests that conservationists should consider behavioral and cultural diversity when pursuing conservation management plans. Specifically, the authors put forward the concept of Chimpanzee cultural heritage sites to protect populations with rare or diverse cultural behaviors, Kalan says.

Go deeper

Texas Republicans pass new congressional maps in their favor

Photo: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Texas House voted 84-59 late Monday to approve new congressional district maps that reduce the number of districts with Black and Hispanic majorities, per the Texas Tribune.

Why it matters: The legislation comes after recent census figures found Texas' growing diverse population doesn't bode well for Republicans, who then worked to protect incumbents with the redrawn maps.

2 hours ago - World

North Korea's military fires another ballistic missile into sea

A woman in Seoul, South Korea, walks past a television image if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired at least one ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Tuesday, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Pyongyang's latest in a series of recent missile launches happened hours after U.S. officials emphasized their commitment to restart negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which have stalled since talks broke down during the Trump administration, AP notes.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump sues National Archives, Jan. 6 committee to block records request

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the National Archives from releasing White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, citing executive privilege.

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in Trump's campaign to disrupt the committee's sweeping probe into the circumstances surrounding Jan. 6, including his actions and communications leading up to the Capitol attack.

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