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Primates. 2013 Jan;54(1):73-80. doi: 10.1007/s10329-012-0329-z. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

Do chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) exhibit sleep related behaviors that minimize exposure to parasitic arthropods? A preliminary report on the possible anti-vector function of chimpanzee sleeping platforms.

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Department of Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Great apes spend half of their lives in a nightly "nest" or sleeping platform (SP), a complex object created by modifying foliage, which functions as a stable substrate on which to sleep. Of the several purported functions of SPs, one hypothesis is that they protect against parasitic infection. Here we investigate the role of SP site choice in avoiding molestation by arthropods. This study presents preliminary data on the insect-repellent properties of preferred sleeping tree species Cynometra alexandri. Insect traps were deployed in gallery forest habitats in which chimpanzees typically "nest." We compared traps placed adjacent to SPs artificially manufactured with C. alexandri trees to an open area within the same habitat. Multiple measures of arthropod counts indicate that simulated C. alexandri SP sites have fewer arthropods than similar non-SP sites. Volatile compounds secreted by C. alexandri foliage are hypothesized to repel annoying arthropods and/or mask chimpanzee olfactory signals. Of the total insects captured (n = 6,318), n = 145 were mosquitoes. Of the total mosquitoes captured, n = 47 were identified as Anopheles (female, n = 12). The prominent malarial vector Anopheles gambiae was identified among the captured mosquito sample. These results suggest that the presence of broken branches of the tree species C. alexandri reduce the amount of insects a chimpanzee is exposed to throughout a night's sleep. This great ape behavioral and socio-technological adaptation may have evolved, in part, to increase quality of sleep as well as decrease exposure to vectors of disease.

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