Saturday, 12 May 2012

Like Humans, Chimps Have Culture, Too


Like humans who might use a different slang term for "that's cool" or have distinct fashion sense, adjacent chimpanzee groups also show cultural differences, in this case, in their nut-cracking techniques, researchers have found.

"In humans, cultural differences are an essential part of what distinguishes neighboring groups that live in very similar environments," study researcher Lydia Luncz, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, said in a statement.

"For the first time, a very similar situation has been found in wild chimpanzees living in the Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, demonstrating that they share with us the ability for fine-scale cultural differentiation."

The researchers studied 45 chimpanzees from three different groups for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 nut-cracking seasons, as they use tools to open coula nuts from a tropical African tree of the same name. The chimps use hard "nutcrackers," which they craft from materials they find in their environment, to break the skin of these nuts against tree root "anvils." The nuts are hard at the beginning of the season, becoming softer and easier to crack open over time.

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