Morphological Identification of Hair Recovered from Feces for Detection of Cannibalism in Eastern Chimpanzees.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are primarily frugivorous but consume a variable amount of meat from a variety of organisms, including other chimpanzees. Cannibalism is rare, usually follows lethal aggression, and does not occur following natural deaths. While chimpanzee cannibalism has been documented at multiple sites, many instances of this behavior go unrecorded. Identification of chimpanzee remains in feces, however, can provide indirect evidence of cannibalism. Hair, in particular, typically passes through the gastrointestinal tract undamaged and is commonly used for purposes of identification in wildlife forensics. Here we test the hypothesis that eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) guard hair morphology can be reliably distinguished from the hairs of their most common prey species. Methods and results are presented in the context of a case study involving a suspected chimpanzee infanticide from Gombe, Tanzania. We find that chimpanzee guard hair morphology is unique among tested mammals and that the presence of abundant chimpanzee hair in feces is likely the result of cannibalism and not incidental ingestion from grooming or other means. Accordingly, morphological analysis of guard hairs from feces is a promising, cost-effective tool for the determination of cannibalistic acts in chimpanzees.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Walker, CS; Walker, KK; Paulo, G; Pusey, AE

Published Date

  • January 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 89 / 3-4

Start / End Page

  • 240 - 250

PubMed ID

  • 29788005

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1421-9980

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0015-5713

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1159/000488509


  • eng