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Journal Article

A group-specific arbitrary tradition in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

MPS-Authors
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Van Leeuwen,  Edwin J. C.
Comparative Cognitive Anthropology, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Cronin,  Katherine A.
Comparative Cognitive Anthropology, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Fulltext (public)

VanLeeuwen_Cronin_Haun_2014.pdf
(Publisher version), 643KB

Supplementary Material (public)

10071_2014_766_MOESM1_ESM.avi
(Supplementary material), 179MB

10071_2014_766_MOESM2_ESM.avi
(Supplementary material), 339MB

10071_2014_766_MOESM3_ESM.avi
(Supplementary material), 350MB

Citation

Van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Cronin, K. A., & Haun, D. B. M. (2014). A group-specific arbitrary tradition in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Animal Cognition, 17, 1421-1425. doi:10.1007/s10071-014-0766-8.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0019-B43E-C
Abstract
Social learning in chimpanzees has been studied extensively and it is now widely accepted that chimpanzees have the capacity to learn from conspecifics through a multitude of mechanisms. Very few studies, however, have documented the existence of spontaneously emerged 'traditions' in chimpanzee communities. While the rigor of experimental studies is helpful to investigate social learning mechanisms, documentation of naturally occurring traditions is necessary to understand the relevance of social learning in the real lives of animals. In this study, we report on chimpanzees spontaneously copying a seemingly non-adaptive behaviour ("grass-in- ear behaviour"). The behaviour entailed chimpanzees selecting a stiff, straw-like blade of grass, inserting the grass into one of their own ears, adjusting the position, and then leaving it in their ear during subsequent activities. Using a daily focal follow procedure, over the course of one year, we observed 8 (out of 12) group members engaging in this peculiar behaviour. Importantly, in the 3 neighbouring groups of chimpanzees (n=82), this behaviour was only observed once, indicating that ecological factors were not determiners of the prevalence of this behaviour. These observations show that chimpanzees have a tendency to copy each other's behaviour, even when the adaptive value of the behaviour is presumably absent.