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      Nest-building orangutans demonstrate engineering know-how to produce safe, comfortable beds

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          Abstract

          Nest-building orangutans must daily build safe and comfortable nest structures in the forest canopy and do this quickly and effectively using the branches that surround them. This study aimed to investigate the mechanical design and architecture of orangutan nests and determine the degree of technical sophistication used in their construction. We measured the whole nest compliance and the thickness of the branches used and recorded the ways in which the branches were fractured. Branch samples were also collected from the nests and subjected to three-point bending tests to determine their mechanical properties. We demonstrated that the center of the nest is more compliant than the edges; this may add extra comfort and safety to the structure. During construction orangutans use the fact that branches only break half-way across in "greenstick" fracture to weave the main nest structure. They choose thicker branches with greater rigidity and strength to build the main structure in this way. They then detach thinner branches by following greenstick fracture with a twisting action to make the lining. These results suggest that orangutans exhibit a degree of technical knowledge and choice in the construction of nests.

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          Most cited references 21

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          The behaviour and ecology of wild orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus)

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            Orangutan population density, forest structure and fruit availability in hand-logged and unlogged peat swamp forests in West Kalimantan, Indonesia

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              Setting tool use within the context of animal construction behaviour.

              Tool use and manufacture are given prominence by their rarity and suggested relation to human lineage. Here, we question the view that tool use is rare because cognitive abilities act as an evolutionary constraint and suggest that tools are actually seldom very useful compared with anatomical adaptations. Furthermore, we argue that focussing on animal tool use primarily in terms of human evolution can lead to important insights regarding the ecological and cognitive abilities of non-human tool users being overlooked. We argue that such oversight can best be avoided by examining tools within the wider context of construction behaviours by animals (such as nest building and trap construction).
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                May 01 2012
                May 01 2012
                April 16 2012
                May 01 2012
                : 109
                : 18
                : 6873-6877
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1200902109
                3344992
                22509022
                © 2012
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