Sample Anthropology Paper on Animal Culture


Culture is considered those behavioral patterns shared amongst the members of a
particular group. It results from social learning and the transformation of information from
one group member to the other (Laland & Hoppitt, 2003). scientists had always believed that
they could only find culture in humans in the past. Research done in the previous years has
proven that other animals do have culture. However, researchers differ in their definition of
the term animal culture. Most of them agree it is a sense of shared adoption and transmission
of one or even more behavior patterns. Scientists have discovered just as it happens in human
culture, and a similar but simpler cultural transmission also takes place amongst animals such
as chimpanzees. In this paper, I will analyze the various experiments done by various
researchers on chimpanzee communities. I will also discuss other explanations for their
behaviors other than cultural.
The topic that chimpanzees, just as humans, are influenced by culture is widely
debated. Chimps from different communities have displayed different behaviors despite a
lack of genetic variation. According to Call, Gruber et al. conducted research in which he
drilled holes (one shallow and the other deep) on logs. He then presented the logs to two
different groups of chimpanzees. Both groups of Chimpanzees differed in their approach to
the problem. In the first group, the chimps used hands to scoop honey from the shallow holes
and sticks to obtain honey from the deeper ones. The other group used hands and sticks. The
use of sticks or leaves was observed in both groups and matched the feeding habits of the
chimpanzees. Those from one site usually use leaves to obtain liquids from holes, whereas
the other used sticks. Furthermore, by selectively choosing the two different chimp groups,
the researchers seem to have been capable of making genetic comparisons. Also,
environmental reasons for the observed differences seem to be unlikely. The much more
conclusive available evidence that once faced with the same issue, chimp groups could

indeed vary particularly in their way of resolving it. This finding has fueled the debate on the
existence of culture in chimpanzees. Some agree that the findings prove the existence of
cultural knowledge, whereas others think that the evidence is not enough to make a final
judgment. As Gruber et al. argues, the difference in the approaches of the two groups may
have resulted from previous experiences. But according to Call the question remains, "how
long did it take and what type of social learning took place.".
Another explanation of the results from the Gruber et al. research is that a variety of
behaviors among different groups of chimpanzees may have been reinvented rather than a
result of copying (Call, 2009). One talented chimpanzee invents a certain way to solve a
problem, and the others copy, and therefore it turns into a behavior synonymous with a
particular group. Call considers that in the case of Gruber et al., all the different behaviors
portrayed when obtaining honey from the logs may have been invented by one chimpanzee.
After the invention, other onlookers copy the behavior since it solves their problems. Besides
that, group A developed the use of such leaves in their history. In contrast, group B
developed the use of sticks — and both behavioral patterns then managed to remain with
their respective group through such processes. Call concludes by stating that, though Gruber
et al. may have discovered a striking difference in the problem approach between chimpanzee
groups, it seems unlikely that his finding can be used to make a conclusion on the
chimpanzee culture. However, his approach paves the way for more research on social
According to Laland, research was conducted by Humle and Matsuzawa on the
possibility of the existence of cultural knowledge amongst the chimpanzee. In their research,
they analyzed the various ant dipping behaviors stating it was a very convincing case of the
existence of cultural variations among the chimpanzees whereby the variations among the
groups were not only solely related to whether behavior existed but where to different

techniques of ant dipping were used. The researchers observed that the "pull through" method
was used in the first group. In this method, locally referred to as Gombe, a stick is held in one
hand as the other wipes bunch of ants that are later ingested through the mouth. In the second
method, commonly referred to as Tai, a shorter stick is then held on one hand and used as an
ant harvesting tool which are then ingested through the mouth. The experiment convinced the
researchers that the existence of ecological differences between the population's sites could
not be used to explain the difference in behaviors. They, therefore, concluded that it was
really difficult to see how such patterns of behavior could have been propagated by social
learning processes that were simpler than imitation. Humble and Matsuzawa's analysis also
discovered that the chimpanzees preyed on several species of ants, which deferred in terms of
their aggressiveness and behavior (Laland, 2003). The ants involved were abundant, had
severe bites, and were aggressive, the long stick method was employed since it led to lesser
bites than the short stick method. In the other instances, the short stick method was used.
Skeptics could therefore conclude that the method used by a certain group could have been
shaped by the species of insects and a method that resulted in fewer bites. Humble and
Matsuzuwa's analysis also suggests that had some manipulations been applied by
translocating the chimps from both populations, they would have discovered Gombe-born
chimps applying the Tai method as well as some Tai born chimps applying the pull-through
method. Although the facts have never been obtained since the experiment has never been
conducted, neither the hypothetical translocation experiment nor the Humle and Matsuzawa
analysis would rule out the cultural explanation for ant dipping.
Luncz et al. researched the application of tool-assisted nut cracking amongst
chimpanzees. They reported the existence of consistent variations in the techniques among
various chimpanzee groups located in the same patch of a rainforest (Schalk, 2012). The
researchers observed that chimpanzees belonging to a particular population used stones more

frequently than wooden tools and continued with the trend through the season even though it
would be easier to crack the nuts using the easily available wooden tools. The wooden tools
applied by this group were consistently smaller than those used by other populations. The
availability of the stone or wooden tools applied was the same in the populations, and the
nut's hardness was uniform as they were hardest at the beginning of the season. The research,
therefore, suggests that the similarity in the techniques used by members of the same
community was more than expected based on ecological explanations. However, critics might
point out the existence of a non-cultural explanation: It is conceivable that the predominant
usage of stone tools amongst the members of a certain community, maybe because the nuts
were first harder there, resulted in a greater buildup of stone tools inside the nut-cracking
sites compared to other communities. Therefore, regardless of the origin of a chimp, it may
choose a particular technique synonymous with the community's pattern simply because the
tools are easily available at the site. If this alternative is rejected, the research conducted by
Luncz et al. reinforces a cultural explanation with one of the most convincing examples of
variations in behavior among chimps from different geographical locations, in which social
learning has previously been involved in its obtaining. If indeed the cultural interpretation is
accurate, there is also another assumption. The adult female chimpanzee is usually born in a
different community and later joins a new community in adulthood. Before transferring to a
new community, the females already know how to crack nuts. Consequently, the research
results of Luncz et al. appear to suggest there is a process wherein immigrants adjust their
techniques in nut-cracking and conform to the techniques in the new community. Such
behavior has long been associated with humans only, but the latest research proves otherwise
(Schalk, 2012).
In conclusion, the various researches on the behavior patterns among the chimpanzees
provide strong evidence on the possibility of the existence of animal culture. The difference

in the feeding techniques and tools used by the chimpanzees demonstrates the results of
social learning and how it can shape the lives of different populations through their norms
across various generations. The culture is essential to the survival of the animals as they
acquire foraging techniques and are able to cope with new environments. However, the
evidence is not enough, and therefore there is a recommendation for extra research on the
existing culture among the chimpanzees.



Schalk, C. (2012). Animal Culture: Chimpanzee Conformity? Retrieved 15
February 2022, from
Call, J., & Tennie, C. (2009). Animal Culture: Chimpanzee Table Manners? Current
Biology, 19(21), R982-R983.
Laland, K., & Hoppitt, W. (2003). Do animals Have culture. Evolutionary Anthropology, 12,