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Wild chimps scale branches of culture

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2:02pm, November 13, 2007

A new analysis of behavioral traditions practiced by African chimpanzees supports the idea that the animals learn about such activities from others, possibly from newcomers to established communities. Chimps thus exhibit cultural diversity, even if it falls short of the human cultural spectrum, say Stephen J. Lycett of the University of Liverpool, England, and his colleagues.

Researchers have noted 39 behaviors, varying among seven African chimp communities, that they propose as cultural acts (SN: 6/19/99, p. 388). These behaviors revolve around tool use, foraging techniques, and grooming methods. Critics argue that genetic characteristics of different chimp communities, not culturally based learning, may foster distinctive behavioral styles.

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