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6.2.04

Monkey Culture

No real comment, except to say this is really cool. It also reminds me of a paper I did on baboons for 10th grade biology. I recall being impressed by their social organization.

"Hot Tub Monkeys" Offer Eye on Nonhuman "Culture"

When Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) began receiving food handouts more than 50 years ago? freeing them from the daily grind of foraging for food?they invented "cultural activities" to fill their newly acquired leisure time, researchers say.

... Many cultural differences, independent of human interference, have been observed between monkey troops living around Japan. The troops differ in eating habits; for instance, monkeys in some regions eat bird's eggs. Social behaviors between macaques from disparate regions also vary; only in some troops do males engage in paternal care for infants. In other troops social rank is sharply defined; males behave more aggressively towards one another.

... "Stone handling [playing games with stones] is particularly fascinating because it doesn't seem to have any function, it doesn't seem like a useful thing to do, so it is more convincing that this behavior is being passed on through social learning," said Andrew Whiten, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

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