Experimental studies of traditions and underlying transmission processes in chimpanzees

Lydia Meriel Hopper, Anthony Spiteri, SP Lambeth, S Schapiro, Victoria Horner, Andrew Whiten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Multiple regional differences in tool use have been identified among wild chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, but the hypothesis that these represent traditions, transmitted through social learning, is difficult to substantiate without experimentation. To test chimpanzees' capacity to sustain traditions, we seeded alternative tool use techniques in single individuals in different captive groups. One technique, 'Lift', spread in the group into which it was introduced and not in chimpanzees who saw no model or whose group was seeded with the alternative technique, 'Poke'. Poke was also not discovered by control animals tested individually. However, Poke emerged spontaneously in the Lift group and became dominant in both groups, regardless of the founder's Lift or Poke technique. Accordingly, this study demonstrated a statistically significant, differential spread of alternative techniques through social learning, yet no clear separation of traditions, unlike an earlier study with a different population of chimpanzees. This difference may be attributable to prior experience with relevant tools. In further experiments we investigated the basis of the social learning evident in acquisition of the Lift technique, using 'ghost' conditions in which the task was operated automatically rather than by a chimpanzee. Differential movement of the feeding device either by itself or with the tool coupled to it was not sufficient for learning to occur. It appears necessary for a chimpanzee to observe another chimpanzee performing the Lift technique for transmission to ensue. (C) 2007 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021-1032
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume73
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007

Keywords

  • chimpanzee
  • culture
  • emulation
  • imitation
  • pan troglodytes
  • social learning
  • tool use
  • tradition
  • RATS RATTUS-NORVEGICUS
  • CHILDREN HOMO-SAPIENS
  • FORAGING INFORMATION
  • CAPTIVE CHIMPANZEES
  • PAN-TROGLODYTES
  • 2-ACTION METHOD
  • TOOL USE
  • IMITATION
  • CULTURES
  • ANIMALS

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