Chimpanzee researchers have earlier shown that chimpanzees possess primitive culture. Amongst other things, they fish for termites using sticks to probe termite mounds and crack open nuts using two stones in a hammer and anvil fashion. These traits are termed ‘culture’ since they are not transmitted genetically but learnt socially from other individuals.
Two researchers at the Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution at Stockholm University, Johan Lind and Patrik Lindenfors, have now shown that chimpanzee culture mostly is carried and transmitted by females. They reached their conclusion by finding that the number of cultural traits in chimpanzee communities correlates with the number of females in those communities, but not with the number of males.
– Our result should have been expected since females are the ones bringing up the young and thus are the ones that spend most time with them in their formative years, says Johan Lind.
– It’s also the females that mostly use tools and who are the ones to move between groups, adds Patrik Lindenfors. When they move they bring with them what they have learned to the next group.
None of the researchers believe that this pattern also applies to human culture.
– Human culture is unique and a result of uniquely human mental capacities. Compared to chimpanzee culture, human culture is mostly determined by completely different dynamics, says Johan Lind and Patrik Lindenfors.
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