According to a study published in the journal Science on April 2, 2021, culture would not be a uniquely human ability. To draw this conclusion, the Scottish researchers reviewed several studies, some of which date from the 1950s.
Culture is not unique to humans
What if animals also had their own culture? According to a team of researchers from the University of St Andrews (Scotland), some mammals, birds, fish and other insects have this ability. Several species would be able to develop a culture and then pass it on to other individuals.
“We thought that other species lived on their instinct and a certain capacity for learning. It must be recognized that culture is not a uniquely human capacity that emerged out of nowhere, but on the contrary has deep evolutionary roots.“, Said Andrew Whiten, principal author of this work, in an article of the Daily mail.
This research is actually a review of several studies of animal behavior and other interactions. These were carried out over the past seventy years.
Early evidence dating back to the 1950s
According to Scottish researchers, “animal culture” concerns several aspects. These include the making and use of tools, foraging techniques, social customs, and voice communication. Let us also mention the preferences for certain preys, romantic partners or even nesting sites. The study reveals that culture permeates animals from infancy through adulthood. Younger individuals would learn from their parents, but also from other more experienced adults.
The researchers point out that the evidence for the existence of an animal culture actually dates from the 1950s. regional dialects of birdsong, but also the diffusion of a technique of washing sweet potatoes in monkeys were discovered.
Later, further research observed the transmission over two decades a hunting technique that humpback whales have developed, namely hitting the surface of the water with the tail to group the fish together. Let us also mention the meerkats, teaching their young to predation by delivering them live scorpions without sting, before giving them scorpions equipped with their weapon. Among chimpanzees studied in Zambia, some of them even developed a kind of tradition after one of their own “started the trend”. This simply consisted of placing a blade of grass in one ear.