Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chimpanzees Build Nests

When we think of animals that build nests, birds are probably the first that come to mind. Maybe bunnies, squirrels, reptiles or wasps. In the conventional sense, nests are built for laying eggs and/or raising young. However, chimpanzees build nests for a completely different reason - they make them for sleeping. They find a spot high in the trees and construct the nest out of branches, leaves, and anything else they find that might be suitable. According to the Jane Goodall Institute, chimps sleep in a different nest every night, and they sometimes even make leaf pillows. The only time they share a nest is when a mother shares with her child.

Researchers have studied chimpanzee sleeping nests for a long time, but never understood why they built them. A few years ago, a biological anthropologist by the name of Fiona Stewart decided to spend a few nights in chimp nests to find out. Sometimes she slept in nests that had previously been made by chimps, and sometimes she built her own using chimp techniques. She also spent a few nights on the ground to compare the experiences.

She discovered that the nests were very sturdy and secure in the trees, so there was very little danger of falling out. She slept better in the nests than she did on the ground because there was less worry over predators and snakes. She also received fewer bug bites - only one per night on average when in a nest, compared to 28 while on the ground. 

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