Systematic mapping of developmental milestones in wild chimpanzees.
: Postnatal development is protracted relative to lifespan in many primates, including modern humans (Homo sapiens), facilitating the acquisition of key motor, communication and social skills that can maximise fitness later in life. Nevertheless, it remains unclear what evolutionary drivers led to extended immature periods. While the developmental milestone literature is well established in humans, insight we can gain from one-species models is limited. By comparing the timing of relatable developmental milestones in a closely related species, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), we can gain further understanding of the evolution of such an extended developmental phase. To date, few studies have specifically attempted to estimate developmental milestones in a manner comparable to the human literature, and existing studies lack sufficient sample sizes to estimate which milestones are more plastic with higher inter-individual variation in the timing of their emergence. Here, we describe the emergence of gross motor, fine motor, social interaction and communication traits from a longitudinal sample of 19 wild chimpanzee infants (8 females and 11 males), Tai National Park, Cote d'Ivoire. Gross motor traits emerged at a mean of four months, communication traits at 12 months, social interaction traits at 14 months and fine motor traits at 15 months, with later emerging milestones demonstrating greater inter-individual variation in the timing of the emergence. This pattern of milestone emergence is broadly comparable to observations in humans, suggesting selection for a prolonged infantile phase and that sustained skills development has a deep evolutionary history, with implications for theories on primate brain development.