Subjects

Abstract

As an increasing number of field studies of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have achieved long-term status across Africa, differences in the behavioural repertoires described have become apparent that suggest there is significant cultural variation1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Here we present a systematic synthesis of this information from the seven most long-term studies, which together have accumulated 151 years of chimpanzee observation. This comprehensive analysis reveals patterns of variation that are far more extensive than have previously been documented for any animal species except humans8,9,10,11. We find that 39 different behaviour patterns, including tool usage, grooming and courtship behaviours, are customary or habitual in some communities but are absent in others where ecological explanations have been discounted. Among mammalian and avian species, cultural variation has previously been identified only for single behaviour patterns, such as the local dialects of song-birds12,13. The extensive, multiple variations now documented for chimpanzees are thus without parallel. Moreover, the combined repertoire of these behaviour patterns in each chimpanzee community is itself highly distinctive, a phenomenon characteristic of human cultures14 but previously unrecognised in non-human species.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    McGrew, W. C. & Tutin, C. E. G. Evidence for a social custom in wild chimpanzees? Man 13, 234–251 (1978).

  2. 2

    Goodall, J. The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior(Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1986).

  3. 3

    Nishida, T. The Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains: Sexual and Life History Strategies(Tokyo Univ. Press, Tokyo, 1990).

  4. 4

    McGrew, W. C. Chimpanzee Material Culture: Implications for Human Evolution(Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1992).

  5. 5

    Sugiyama, Y. in The Use of Tools by Human and Non-human Primates(eds Berthelet, A. & Chavaillon, J.) 175–187 (Clarendon, Oxford, 1993).

  6. 6

    Wrangham, R. W., McGrew, W. C., de Waal, F. B. M. & Heltne, P. G. (eds) Chimpanzee Cultures(Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1994).

  7. 7

    Boesch, C. The emergence of cultures among wild chimpanzees. Proc. Br. Acad. 88, 251–268 (1996).

  8. 8

    Bonner, J. T. The Evolution of Culture in Animals(Princeton Univ. Press, New Jersey, 1980).

  9. 9

    Mundinger, P. C. Animal cultures and a general theory of cultural evolution. Ethol. Sociobiol. 1, 183–223 (1980).

  10. 10

    Lefebvre, L. & Palameta, B. in Social Learning: Psychological and Biological Perspectives(eds Zentall, T. & Galef, B. G. Jr) 141–164 (Erlbaum, Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1988).

  11. 11

    McGrew, W. C. Culture in non-human primates? Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 27, 301–328 (1998).

  12. 12

    Marler, P. & Tamura, M. Song ‘dialects’ in three populations of white-crowned sparrows. Science 146, 1483–1486 (1964).

  13. 13

    Catchpole, C. K. & Slater, P. J. B. Bird Song: Themes and Variations(Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1995).

  14. 14

    Murdock, G. P. Ethnographic Atlas(Univ. Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1967).

  15. 15

    Kroeber, A. L. & Kluckhohn, C. Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions(Random House, New York, 1963).

  16. 16

    Bloch, M. Language, anthropology and cognitive science. Man 26, 183–198 (1991).

  17. 17

    Nishida, T. in Primate Societies(eds Smuts, B. B., Cheney, D. L., Seyfarth, R. M., Wrangham, R. W. & Struhsaker, T. T.) 462–474 (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 1987).

  18. 18

    Whiten, A. & Ham, R. On the nature of imitation in the animal kingdom: reappraisal of a century of research. Adv. Study Behav. 21, 239–283 (1992).

  19. 19

    Imanishi, K. Identification: A process of enculturation in the subhuman society of Macaca fuscata . Primates 1, 1–29 (1957).

  20. 20

    Huffman, M. in Social Learning in Animals: The Roots of Culture(eds Heyes, C. M. & Galef, B. G.) 267–289 (Academic Press, London, 1996).

  21. 21

    Boesch, C., Marchesi, P., Marchesi, N., Fruth, B. & Joulian, F. Is nut cracking in wild chimpanzees a cultural behaviour? J. Hum. Evol. 26, 325–338 (1994).

  22. 22

    Galef, B. G. J The question of animal culture. Hum. Nature 3, 157–178 (1992).

  23. 23

    Tomasello, M., Kruger, A. C. & Ratner, H. H. Cultural learning. Behav. Brain Sci. 16, 495–552 (1993).

  24. 24

    Whiten, A., Custance, D. M., Gomez, J.-C., Teixidor, P. & Bard, K. A. Imitative learning of artificial fruit-processing in children (Homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J. Comp. Psychol. 110, 3–14 (1996).

  25. 25

    Whiten, A. Imitation of the sequential structure of actions by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J. Comp. Psychol. 112, 270–281 (1998).

  26. 26

    Spence, K. W. Experimental studies of learning and the mental processes in infra-human primates. Psychol. Bull. 34, 806–850 (1937).

  27. 27

    Sumita, K., Kitahara-Frisch, J. & Norikoshi, K. The acquisition of stone tool use in captive chimpanzees. Primates 26, 168–181 (1985).

  28. 28

    Tomasello, M., Davis, Dasilv, M., Dasilv M. Camak, L. & Bard, K. Observational learning of tool-use by young chimpanzees. Hum. Evol. 2, 175–183 (1987).

  29. 29

    Paquett, D. Discovering and learning tool-use for fishing honey by captive chimpanzees. Hum. Evol. 7, 17–30 (1992).

  30. 30

    Nagell, K., Olguin, K. & Tomasello, M. Processes of social learning in the tool use of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and children (Homo sapiens). J. Comp. Psychol. 107, 174–186 (1993).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank T. Matsuzawa, G. Yamakoshi, H. Boesch, D. A. Collins, S. Kamenya, H.Matama, H. Mkono, E. Mpongo, J. Salala, M. Huffman, M. Kasagula, R. Nyundo, S. Uehara, K.Arnold, C. Assersohn, K. Fawcett, J. Kakura, Z. Kiwede, G. Muhumuza, N. Newton-Fisher, P.Pebsworth, E. Stokes, J. Tinka, A. Arcadi, C. Katongole, G. Isabiriye-Basuta, F. Mugurusi, M. Muller and M. Wilson for contributions to the database; D. A. Collins, D. I. Perrett and P. J. B. Slater for advice on the manuscript; and S. Smart for the graphics of Fig. 1.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Scottish Primate Research Group, School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, KY16 9JU, St Andrews, UK

    • A. Whiten
  2. Gombe Stream Research Centre, P.O. Box 185, Kigoma, Tanzania

    • J. Goodall
  3. Department of Zoology and Department of Sociology, Gerontology and Anthropology, Miami University, Oxford, 45056, Ohio, USA

    • W. C. McGrew
  4. Laboratory of Human Evolution Studies, Kyoto University, 606-01, Kyoto, Japan

    • T. Nishida
  5. Institute of Biological Anthropology, Oxford University, 58 Banbury Road, OX2 6QS, Oxford, UK

    • V. Reynolds
  6. Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, 484-8506, Inuyama, Japan

    • Y. Sugiyama
  7. Centre Internationale de Recherche Médicales de Franceville, BP 769, Franceville, Gabon

    • C. E. G. Tutin
  8. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Stirling, FK9 4LA, Stirling, UK

    • C. E. G. Tutin
  9. Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, 02138, Massachussetts, USA

    • R. W. Wrangham
  10. Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Insellstrasse 22, 04301, Leipzig, Germany

    • C. Boesch

Authors

  1. Search for A. Whiten in:

  2. Search for J. Goodall in:

  3. Search for W. C. McGrew in:

  4. Search for T. Nishida in:

  5. Search for V. Reynolds in:

  6. Search for Y. Sugiyama in:

  7. Search for C. E. G. Tutin in:

  8. Search for R. W. Wrangham in:

  9. Search for C. Boesch in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Whiten.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary information

    An extended graphical database (unrefereed) of this material is also available (http://chimp.st-and.ac.uk/cultures). (DOC 25 kb)

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Issue Date

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/21415

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.