The spread of a novel behaviour in wild chimpanzees: new insights into the ape cultural mind

Thibaud Gruber, Timothée Poisot, Klaus Zuberbuehler, William Hoppitt, Cat Hobaiter

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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For years, the animal culture debate has been dominated by the puzzling absence of direct evidence for social transmission of behavioural innovations in the flagship species of animal culture, the common chimpanzee. Although social learning of novel behaviours has been documented in captivity, critics argue that these findings lack ecological validity and therefore may not be relevant for understanding the evolution of culture. For the wild, it is possible that group-specific behavioural differences emerge because group members respond individually to unspecified environmental differences, rather than learning from each other. In a recent paper, we used social network analyses in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) to provide direct evidence for social transmission of a behavioural innovation, moss-sponging, to extract water from a tree hole. Here, we discuss the implications of our findings and how our new methodological approach could help future studies of social learning and culture in wild apes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1017164
Number of pages3
JournalCommunicative and Integrative Biology
Issue number2
Early online date1 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • Chimpanzee culture
  • Tool use
  • Social network
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Mental representations
  • Evolution of culture


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