Thursday, August 18, 2011

Do chimps have culture?

It's hard being human, or at least, to define what exactly makes us human. It used to be tool-making, but our close cousins the chimpanzees have been found to use tools, such as sticks to gather insects for food. Could culture, the inheritance of behaviors by learning, be the next "exclusively human" trait to fall?

Evolutionary anthropologists are studying chimpanzee communities throughout the West coast of Africa to determine if different groups indeed have different cultures and traditions. There is geographical variation in what specific behaviors chimps exhibit, but this alone does not confirm that there are different traditions:
Deciphering culture in the wild is difficult because researchers must ensure that behavioural differences between groups do not have other causes, such as variation in genetics or environmental conditions. "Why is it all chimps don't do everything? One solution is that there are hidden ecological differences between populations," says primatologist Richard Wrangham at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A behaviour could be linked to any number of variables such as amount of rainfall, the types of tree available, or the kinds of predator in the area, he says.
Read more at Nature News.

No comments: