Like in humans, culture influences ape behaviour

October 21st, 2011 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 21 (IANS) Like humans, great apes too have the ability to learn socially and pass them down through generations.

Researchers have come up with evidence that culture in humans and great apes come from the same evolutionary roots. This finding has been made by a team led by anthropologist Michael Krützen from the University of Zurich, which has been studying orangutans, the journal Current Biology reports.

Anthropologists from the University of Zurich have now studied whether the geographic variation of behavioral patterns in nine orangutan populations in Sumatra and Borneo can be explained by cultural transmission.

“This is the case; the cultural interpretation of the behavioral diversity also holds for orangutans - and in exactly the same way as we would expect for human culture,” explains Krützen, according to a Zurich statement.

The researchers show that genetic factors or environmental influences cannot explain the behaviour patterns in orangutan populations.

The ability to learn things socially and pass them on, evolved over many generations; not just in humans but also apes.

“It looks as if the ability to act culturally is dictated by the long life expectancy of apes and the necessity to be able to adapt to changing environmental conditions,” Krützen adds.

“Now we know that the roots of human culture go much deeper than previously thought. Human culture is built on a solid foundation that is many millions of years old and is shared with the other great apes.”

The researchers analyzed over 100,000 hours of behavioral data, created genetic profiles for over 150 wild orangutans and measured ecological differences between the populations using satellite imagery and advanced remote sensing techniques.

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