Tédonzong, L. R. D., Ndju'u, M. B. M., Tchamba, M. et al. 2023. The influence of vegetation structure on sleeping site selection by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes). American Journal of Primatology 85(7), e23505.

Sleep is an important aspect of great ape life; these animals build sleeping platforms every night. In a community of chimpanzees, each subgroup selects a sleeping site where each individual builds a sleeping platform, mostly on a tree. Previous studies have measured the heights of sleeping platforms and sleeping trees to test the predation avoidance and thermoregulation hypotheses of sleeping site selection. However, it remains unclear how components of vegetation structure (vertical and horizontal) together determine the selection of sleeping sites by chimpanzees. Using botanical inventories around sleeping sites in a tropical rainforest of Cameroon, we found that chimpanzees preferentially sleep in trees measuring 40–50 cm in diameter. Regarding height, on average, sleeping trees measured 26 m and sleeping platforms were built at 16 m. To build sleeping platforms, chimpanzees preferred four tree species, which represent less than 3% of tree species in the study area. We demonstrate that the variation in abundance of tree species and the vertical and horizontal structure of the vegetation drive chimpanzee sleeping site selection. It was previously thought that preference for vegetation types was the driver of sleeping site selection in chimpanzees. However, results from this study indicate that the importance of vegetation types in sleeping site selection depends on their botanical characteristics including the variation in tree size, the abundance of all trees, the abundance of sleeping trees, and the occurrence of preferred sleeping tree species, which predict sleeping site selection. The height and diameter of trees are considered by chimpanzees when selecting a particular tree for sleeping and when selecting a site with a specific vertical structure. In addition to tree height, the abundance of smaller neighboring trees may also play a role in the chimpanzee antipredation strategy. Our results demonstrate that chimpanzees consider several vegetation parameters to establish sleeping sites.