The Changing Ape

The Changing ApeIn the sweltering heart of Senegal, in a place called Fongoli, a chimpanzee performs an earth-shattering act.

She strips a branch of its leaves, chews the tip into a point and jams the tool into a hole in a tree, killing a bushbaby. In short, she has been making tools and using them to hunt.

Only humans are supposed to be capable of that. Anthropologist Jill Pruetz takes us deep into the fascinating world of the creatures she has studied for 9 years, giving us exclusive access to not only their groundbreaking hunting skills but their other strangely human ways.

They spend most of their days on the ground, they splash in swimming holes and they even curl up in caves to sleep. With the help of experts on our earliest ancestors and newly discovered evidence of the chimp stone age, we take an eye-opening scientific journey that reveals as much about ourselves as it does about the remarkable chimps of Fongoli.

Watch the full documentary now (playlist - 50 minutes)

Ratings: 7.70/10 from 10 users.

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51 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Inb4

    Inb4 the bible thumper's write a wall of text that no one will read.

  2. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    Fantastic doc. It's amazing that they witness them sleeping in caves; truely remarkable behavior.

  3. monkey

    truly beautiful ! great doc !

  4. William

    Evolution is real!

  5. FrequentViewer

    Perhaps one day the planet of the apes may become a true story.

  6. Robyn

    Very interesting documentary! I think as man observes the various species on Earth he will ultimately come away with the idea that every species has its own culture; passing on those important concepts, whether it is tool use, specific migratory routes, nest building or knowledge of seasonal fruit, that allow it to compete successfully in the fight for survival. And as we do, our arrogance will be knocked down a few pegs, realizing that all species have the intelligence to acclimatize according to their needs and abilities. And that man, for what ever reason, chose to not live in fear of predators and decided to confront them head on; and this is what really separates us from the other species here on Earth.

  7. FrequentViewer

    Robyn, There are plenty predators in the animal kingdom on top of the food chain that fear no other animals and man is not one of them. We just have the tools to protect ourselves.

  8. whoopi goldberg

    of all the animals in the world im most afraid of teenage kids who live in the suburbs. they all b acting hard, what tools can i use against them?

  9. grey area

    its all about fear people. when the ancient man looked out his cave and saw sabretooths and other beasts, then looked at himself...he knew it was all over unless he could use his brain for survival. thus creating weapons to protect his family. seeing fire and being terrified of it...learned how to harness it cuz every land creature was jus as afraid of it. our brains are what set us apart and we are on top of the food chain . only because our tools , like the chimp made, allow us to kill any other living thing. without our tools , we would be useless scavengers, hiding from lions , tigers , bears , etc. never enter water from fear of sharks, etc. everything u use or touch is a 'tool' that humans have created. mostly derived for self defense purposes. now were top dogs so we fear eachother....nuke time baby

  10. Waldo

    Be afraid of the tooth ache, very very afraid indeed. My head feels like it will explode. My jaw is so swollen that I look one of those redneck guys with chewing tobacco stuffed in his mouth. Three day steady diet of anti-biotics and ibuprophen, waiting for a dentist office to open. They did a cap on what was left of a molar Friday, been in pain ever since. Something must have gotten down in between the tooth and the gum and gotten infected. Its really odd to have an abscess where you have already had a root canal, but here we are.

    Does any body know of a tool I can use on this? These anti-biotics do not seem to be doing the trick, amoxicillin/clavulan 875-125mg tab, twice a day with food- since Friday the 4th of December. Ibuprophen, about three or four every two hours. Help, please- this is extemely painful.

  11. Robyn

    @ Waldo
    A root canal will do the trick. But you need to complete the antibiotic regimen to eliminate the infection first.

  12. Robyn

    @ frequent viewer
    I didnt say we didnt fear them. I said we refused to live in fear of them. Hence, OUR tools like traps and guns to help us overcome that fear.

  13. Waldo

    @ Robyn

    Yeah, they have already done a root canal on it. They capped what was left of it last friday with a temporary crown, about two hours after they got done I started hurting so bad all I could do was pace the floor. That was Friday night, since it has swollen up the whole left side of my face and is really hurting. I am taking the antibiotics in case it is infected, but thats rare once you have had a root canal and all. I guess its back to the torture chamber, I mean dentist. What fun!!

  14. Alx

    i think we need to git our shi\t together asap and get of the planet, these guys need room to evolve

  15. advertise

    When they start to kill each other with weapons, they will become truly human.

  16. Robyn

    You need to get back to the dentist. You have an infection that is a very bad situation. My wife is a licensed dental assistant and she has told me about this happening. The dentist didnt get all of the nerve or organic tissue out of the canal and it is becoming infected. A really bad situation. Get back to the dentist ASAP and get it taken care of. It can spread to your jaw bone or your blood, either way it is not good.

  17. Charles B.

    Wow! Waldo, I feel for ya. I thought I might die when I had my tooth infection last year (literally), and so I know how you feel. Please post again so we know you're still with us when you get it fixed up! I'll pray for you before I loose conciousness tonight.

  18. shiz biz

    "Standing is the defining characteristic of our specie"?part 3 11:39 ?? Erm erm…Language? Don’t get me wrong, I liked the doco, however they did not mention the most important feature that separates human for the ape. Language is what makes us human. Surely they should have mentioned this.

  19. Robert Allen

    Absorbing and excellent!

  20. dale gervais

    speculative garbage,one part of these ancient chimps walked and changed into us and the rest stayed on their knuckles and didn't change at all.Wow deep,any proof of this other than we're here and they are there?Sleeping in caves isn't that remarkable when you consider there aren't any substantial trees to sleep in.Sleep on the ground out in the open ,predators,in the small trees,fall out,gee maybe in here huh?Does anyone really believe these chimps will turn into humans?By the way chimps have been hunting and killing and eating each other for as long as we have studied them.This is one of the reasons I think evolution is a joke.If we evolved then they should've too.The climate was the same for all of us.

  21. equidae

    If we evolved then they should've. That's just stupid. You clearly don't understand evolution. Evolution is how a population's choices make themselves plain in physical form. Chimps at the point between our two species splitting would have exhibited different behavior. And behavior is important in evolution, it's a factor that can determine convergence versus divergence in a wide array of traits. So for chimps who likely remained extant in forested areas, so incidentally they had no reason to develop much further since. Their environment has been static largely. IN Fongoli however we see the bold habitat falling away. That their making a logical choice isn't important, because 1. they may not see it that,2 we don't see any other primates like baboons displaying similar behavior. So clearly the choice to sleep in caves is important, as it 1. changes how they behave and interact with their environment, 2 changes possibly their survival.

  22. Joe Johnson

    I think birds are bipedal too, they obviously walk on two legs. Also otters use tools such as a special rock that they put on their belly to open shellfish. And crows also are able to use tools such as sticks to go after insects in trees. Birds also build homes for themselves with nests. Spiders make webs to catch their dinner. This can also be considered a tool in a way. Hermit crabs use the discarded shells of other shellfish and have therefore started to evolve without a shell. Bats sleep in caves to keep warm and to escape from predators, so chimps are not as unique as researchers say they are.
    It is interesting how the commentator referred to the offspring as "son" and "daugher" and thereby humanizing them and therefore fits in with their worldview perfectly.
    They also have to bring up gender to make it seem that the female of the species may have been "smarter" than the male.
    They could have left that part out.
    Evolution is still a theory by the way, but a compelling one.

  23. dustyfootobserver

    gravity is also still a theory. It does not go higher than theory in scientific nomenclature.

  24. dustyfootobserver

    language is by no means an exclusively human trait. All animals communicate to one another, whether that be through body language, grunts and or other vocalizations, and 0r the exchange of information through the secretion of bodily fluids.

  25. Sabin Russell

    so when did we evolve from chimps?
    oh yeah thats right we DIDNT evolve from chimps :)
    us and chimps share a common ancestor
    we are not the same species
    just check out darwins tree of life
    or any evolution tree of life

  26. Sabin Russell

    spiders really?
    that was a horrible point since spiders dont collect the materials for making the web...its part of their body
    the chimps teach (yeah they teach get over it)
    all the other animals you mentioned use tools automatically
    there is no teaching involved
    more importantly you must be a sexist
    females are smarter than male chimps so what

  27. cmak25

    A great couple points there. So I assume you live in a compound in Utah and have 5 wives? Evolution is far from a theory, and you would have to be incredibly sexist to find an insult in female chimps being smarter. Bats, Crabs and Spiders are terrible comparisons. Very poorly thought out.

  28. cmak25

    No objective, logical, rational thinking adult could possibly take all the evidence into account and call evolution a joke. Is it really more important what can be proven to you or what we learned first? did an old man round up 2 of every animal? is the earth a few thousand years old? Your selectively oblivious like an 8 year old that still believes in santa. take in all the information available and look at things objectively?

  29. blade

    dale gervais

    ever heard of mitochondrial dna?? basically what it means is, you can have one group of humans in one area, another group of human in another area one in hot climate, one in cold climate part, they are same species, same habits, look the same, talk same language etc etc, then they never have contact with each other for thousands of years, and then they could meet each other again, and becos of mitochondrial dna, which is passed down by mothers, and mutates slightly every generation, those two groups would by then look a bit different, same as difference with black people and white people, they also would have learned changes and would of developed different cultures, same as we have today, would have different habits, different rituals, use different tools, hunt in different ways etc, same as we have today.. in earlier times before man, there were many many different species of apes, as hundreds of thousands of years pass by, and by not interbreeding with other groups etc, they gain differences, they learn to do things differently such as harness fire, develop superior hunting tools etc, one group who done thing, seperates themselves from others groups who did not develop this, and as time goes on, hundreds of thousands of years, turn into a different species all together.. evolution is proved by mitochondrial dna, that changes us as people, our height, hair color etc etc over time.. think of things this way, the western world is very developed, native american indians who have had no contact with western world, are not as smart as people in western world, because they have not learned these new tools, they are isolated from everyone else.. if this stayed the same for the next 400 thousand years.. because of how the western world has changed things and use different tools etc, medicines, foods we eat are no longer grown naturally etc, and of course because we wont interbreed with these native indians, we will look very different, we will of changed a lot more and also sped up evolution by doing the same thing our ancestors done, we gained more knowledge, use diff tools, ate different foods, klived different lifestyles.. therefor we will change a lot quicker then indians who live naturally and wontt change their lifstyle or habits or tools etc much at all

  30. 5T3V3H3W5

    Crappy, I got half way through it then the rest was blocked in my country due to copy right laws.

  31. Epicurus

    all birds are bipeds on the ground which is a trait they inherited from their dinosaur ancestors, since that is where birds evolved from.

    yes otters use a stone, but what is so amazing about chimp tool use is the way they pass on the information and the way certain groups possess the knowledge and others dont thus creating what we call culture. also chimps use a lot more complex tools than any of the other animals you mentioned. one of the main differences is that chimps modify an item to make a tool, and sometimes transport that tool over long distances to use it.

    the crow example is a neat one though. they are shown to be the most intelligent birds. they have been known to take nuts that are too hard for them to break, and fly them over intersections and wait for cars to drive over them then swoop down and get the inside....brilliant.

    evolution is still a theory just like gravity and germs. a theory is the most important position something can take in science, because not only does it describe a fact but it describes how that fact occurs.

  32. dewflirt

    I met a crow in Australia who lived outside a shopping centre, he would drag his wing as if it was broken. When people took pity and fed him he would grab the food and fly. He and his gang would also drink the dregs from pop cans :)

  33. francuccio

    Are they the opposite of copy wrong laws?

  34. John Krisfalusci

    In other words, human beings are the most despicable species on this Planet!


    Blade, "pardon my French", but you are a [text removed by the moderator].

    BTW Native American civilization was far more advanced in many senses than the European one. Mayans had a more precise calendar than the one used today. There knowledge of astronomy, some parts of medicine, irrigation, water management was far more sophisticated than, again, the European at that time. The Europeans won because they were much more barbaric and bloodthirsty and used fire guns with powder (invented by the Chinese btw).

    Multiple studies have proven that all human races have same intelligence and cognitive abilities. Europeans are not smarter than Africans, Native Americans or Aboriginal Australians, and same thing goes the other ways. Today the reasons for difference in intelligence are purely social. Social immobility prevents equality.

    p.s. while theory of evolution may attempt to explain the mechanism of accumulating positive hereditary traits in offsprings of animals, it hasn't explained the origin of the first, "original" species. Not yet. That's why it is only a theory. Even today.

    p.s.s. the turning of inorganic matter into a living organism has never been achieved in a lab yet, and thus unproven to this day. Thus a theory of creationism has a right to exist. The creator could be some supernatural entity or it could be some sentient aliens species or something/somebody else entirely. We just don't know yet.


    I second that.

    We are the only species that can be greedy, unfaithful, murderous.

    By murderous, I mean that only humans may kill for pleasure. other animals only kill for food and in self-defense. Only we kill to entertain ourselves.

    Only we take more than we need, only we inflict damage in spite's sake, only we can bring this beautiful planet to it's end.

    We are worse than a virus.


    when a piece of inorganic matter turns into a living organism by itself (or even in a lab), I'll agree with you. Until then, evolution is just a theory, NOT an axiom.


    Take a dog, put it into a place with blistering heat, make sure a cave is nearby. I'll bet 10$ the dog will sleep in the cave. Same goes for a cat, a cow, a goat, a lizard, or your friendly Hobo, who lives around the block. Big deal...

    p.s. otherwise the doc was very good. The hunting, using of tools and teaching it to the next generation parts were amazing.

  39. over the edge

    first off can you define "theory " for me? secondly where in evolutionary theroy does it claim that "norganic matter turns into a living organism by itself" denying a theory because it does not fulfill a claim it never made but is imposed by you is dishonest and ignorant.




    best and the most pertinent comment so far.

    Agreed 100% with everything said.


    The missing link IS STILL MISSING. When you find it, let everybody know. Everyone who doesn't agree with evolution will shut up.

    p.s. FYI the missing link is "your so called common ancestor".

  43. Vlatko

    1. Is there a problem with your username?

    2. Do not insult the people here. I had to remove some of your insults.

    3. Evolution is not the same with Abiogenesis. Google it.

    4. While we're there look up the difference of the word "theory" in scientific and colloquial sense.

    5. Inability to turn inorganic matter into a living organism doesn't give the right for creationism to exist. You prescribe to one of the worst theist fallacies: We don't know what happened therefore God did it.

  44. AllBridges

    Saying that a theory is a theory is not an argument against it. I'm sure you've heard of the theory of gravity. No one says, "I don't believe in gravity, b/c it's just a theory".

  45. Epicurus

    right, i dont know why you are saying this to me. I am arguing for evolution.

    you might have been confused, the first paragraph i put was quoting someone else who i was responding to.

  46. ToFew

    I'm not arguing against evolution theory, but: Actually, no I have not heard of the "Theory of Gravity," though I'm with the understanding that Isaac Newton established the Law of Universal Gravitation already; No one disputes the Law of Gravity because it is a LAW, and the basis of Newtonian physics... that said, the Theory of relativity challenges an aspect of Newton's laws, though does not outright disprove it, thus maintaining the preservation of it's "law" status.
    It is arrogant to think an idea more than it actually is. a theory IS a theory, and is subject to the potential of being disproven at any given discovery.

    If a person cannot adjust one's thinking when presented with evidence (not speculation), or even allow the notion for the possibility that they *could* be incorrect intheir thinking, then they have adopted the same mindframe that caused the igreat inquisition and other religous dogma that has been *proven* untrue. They would still have allowed a logical fallacy to root in their mind.

    For things that cannot be disproven, the jury is still out on any claim to knowledge. Though it's entertaining to postulate and speculate, until a person knows for sure - they don't actually or even really know for sure! Frankly, I'm fed-up with this arrogance that has diluted real science, and am in mourning for the people that blindly rely on those that claim they adhere to scientific method and are instead offered opinions and FUD. Enough already.

  47. Stone

    Only species that can love, spread beauty, have morals to bound ourselves from causing pain.

    Humans are the most amazing species on our planet, we are far more interesting than anything in our solar system.

    We do have a problem though, we are enslaved to the job forced to work long hours. Many jobs are pointless and exist for no reason other than to make money, for instance stock brokers and bank jobs.

    We should build an economy based on looking out for everyone equally.

    Based on resources, so instead of burning fuel to make energy. We use renewable methods, with no price tag the only thing that holds us back is resources. A government would exist but it would be an enormous committee of scientists, that must decide on how to manage the earths resources so that we may feed, cloth and house everyone on the planet.

    Jobs would be: Art, Music, Dance, Construction, Research. Seeing as there is no competition for money like in capitalism research could be pooled by all scientists and everyone would be working together. Medical research would be improved a lot, currently Pharm companies fight each other in a race to trademark discovered genes and curing disease and illness.

    Things are made to break, if you buy a car and it never broke or needed maintenance. The company who makes that car wouldn't make as much money. In a resource based economy it would be preferable to make things to last, so the resources are not wasted on repairs.

  48. Epicurus

    "Only species that can love, spread beauty, have morals to bound ourselves from causing pain."

    wrong. what makes you think that though?

  49. Suzanne Ubick

    A scientific theory is a set of ideas that started off as an hypothesis that was rigorously tested, repeatedly, and for which the mechanisms have been identified and described in accordance with natural laws. Not quite the same as the common usage of "theory" which equates to the scientific term "hypothesis." Hmm, in common usage "theory" probably means "this is my guess."

  50. sabelmouse

    it drives me mad when people do this. and they do it everywhere.

  51. rio

    just because you have weight does not mean its gravity that is the cause, in fact electric charge can change the mass of an object.

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