Behavioral diversity in populations of free-ranging chimpanzees in Africa: Is it culture?

W. C. McGrew*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Behavioral differences exist among populations of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes, Hominoidea) across Africa. Deciding if these are cross-cultural differences demands careful interpretation and rigorous scrutiny. Even standard patterns like social grooming may show variation in detail between neighboring populations. Some patterns of tool use, such as using hammers to crack nuts, also vary across far western Africa. At least 37 populations of free-ranging chimpanzees show tool use, and 14 show at least one habitual pattern of tool use. Regional differences exist among the three subspecies or geographical races of chimpanzees. Convincing empirical demonstration of social customs and traditions in non-human species is problematical, and even something so simple in principle as innovation is hard to show in practice. However, culture need not depend on imitation, teaching, or language, either in humans or in other species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-220
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Evolution
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1998


  • Chimpanzee
  • Culture
  • Hominoidea
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Tool use


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